The summer internship program that was recently underway at Toronto University is likely to see some interesting innovations hit the streets soon. This self-driving wheelchair will soon be making headlines as it is the latest wheelchair innovation yet.
Everything You Need to Know
This self-driving wheelchair is fitted with sensors that assist it in detecting objects without the use of hands. All you need to do is set the destination point and current position and the wheelchair can take you there all by itself. This was precisely what was seen during a demonstration that was done in the Bahen Centre at Toronto University.
Cyberworks Robotics is collaborating with the University of Toronto to further research this area. This was the same company that had come out with the world’s first autonomous robot, some 30 years back.
Vivek Burhanpurkar, the CEO of Cyberworks said that this self-driving wheelchair, which is the latest in wheelchair innovations, is the culmination of many years of work.
A Unified Effort
Xinyi Li, of Zhejiang University in China, signed up for a 12 week internship at the University of Toronto. All of 20 years, this mechanical engineering student had a marvellous vision that she sought to give life to.
Mathilde Hede is another one of the 31 students who have come to Toronto to work on cutting edge projects. An engineer at the robotics company, Cyberworks, she is working on the prototypes of these autonomous wheelchairs, testing them in the hallways of the University.
The University of Sherbrooke in Quebec also played a role in this project by providing the mapping technology that is used in the chair. Jonathan Kelly, who is an assistant professor in aerospace studies at Toronto University, said that although there are other self-driving wheelchairs hitting the markets, this one is unique because Cyberworks is utilising existing technology to run the wheelchair. This means the gadget will be cheaper than other alternatives and will hit the markets soon.
What to Expect?
A 56 year old quadriplegic, Stewart Craig, has managed his wheelchair with the help of a joystick, for many years now. However, he admits that his hands do get tired after some time. Although initially hesitant about giving complete control to the wheelchair, he does admit that if the technology is proven to be safe, it would be fantastic to enjoy riding around hands-free.
Currently, what is left is for the project to get feedback from its users. It will then try and get approval from Health Canada, after which, it will hit the markets. As for young Li, the idea of pursuing further studies in Canada seems like an appealing option now.
The Current Scenario
Two completed prototypes are currently being tested at Toronto University. They are fitted with visual sensors to enable them to avoid any objects that come in the way. In addition, they have been designed to notice glass doors, which usually go unnoticed by visual sensors.
Although such a chair was initially only being used by people with severe upper body problems, if this technology hits the market at the price that they are looking to start with, almost anyone using a wheelchair could take advantage of this latest innovation that will soon hit the markets - the self-driven wheelchair.