If there is one thing the modern day wheelchair cannot do, it would be to climb up stairs. Of course, all of that might very well change for the better in the future, as the Chiba Institute of Technology saw a group of researchers led by Shuro Nakajima come up with a robot wheelchair which is capable of climbing over steps as seen in the YouTube video above. The robot wheelchair will not be able to work as fast as a Transformers transformation, but it does make full use of its four-wheel drive and five axes to overcome a previously insurmountable obstacle for regular wheelchair users.
As the user, you tell the robot wheelchair just where it is to go via a joystick, and the robot will automatically assess the surrounding terrain, making the relevant moves afterwards. Should you end up on uneven ground, the robot will control the seat in order to maintain a level field. It relies on sensors on its feet to figure out what’s on the ground, as well as “seeing” just how far it is from a step. Right now, the working prototype is classified as a conceptual wheelchair, but most of the motion has been worked out. The next step would be to fine tune the user experience, and this can only happen best via a live user test.