Machines for LivingBy Grifantini, Kristina; Technology Review,
Publication Date: March/April 2009
Article describes robotic wheelchairs and wheelchair accessories developed by a scientist directing the robotics lab at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Wheelesley, named for the scientist’s alma mater, Wellesley, features a stereo vision system and distance sensors which allow it to automatically identify and navigate around obstacles such as poles and steep drop-offs such as curbs and stairs. A new version in development, known as Wheeley, will be able to learn the most direct route to a location by updating an internal map. Two cameras serving as Wheeley’s stereo-vision eyes collect the information it uses to build the map. Specially-designed software lets it interpret the optical characters that appear in signs. Work is underway to enable the robotic chair to recognize door handles and elevator buttons as well. Scientists at the robotics lab are also working on improving robotic arm attachments that can recognize and grasp objects, including an intuitive system for improved control of the commercially-available Assistive Robotic Manipulator (ARM). With the system, a user sitting in a wheelchair outfitted with the attachment and a touch screen will be able to touch an image of an object on the screen to tell the robotic arm to retrieve the object. A low-cost attachment that can open and close doors is also in development.
Assistive Products Discussed: ASSISTIVE ROBOTIC MANIPULATOR (ARM)
Published by: Technology Review, Inc. (Website:http://www.technologyreview.com)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (Web Site: http://www.mit.edu )
Link to text: http://www.technologyreview.com/article/22156/