The folks over at Sweden’s Lulea University of Technology have developed an electric wheelchair that can “see” for its user. Designed for visually impaired passengers, the wheelchair uses a laser scanner to generate a 3D map of the wheelchair’s surroundings. With this map, it acts like a virtual cane, alerting the driver about any obstacles such as people or open doors, through haptic feedback with the wheelchair’s steering joystick.
These seeing wheelchairs are currently being tested by folks at the university and so far results have been great. There’s still a lot of work to be done before we’ll start seeing this device on the market. The current laser scanner only works for scanning objects at a certain height. If objects are higher than or lower than the wheelchair, they aren’t detected by the scanner. The team also plans to develop a 3D camera just for the wheelchair so that it can perform more accurate 3D measurements. Expect the sighted wheelchair to come into existence in about five years.