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Wheelchairs That Listen

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autonomous wheelchair

MIT's robotic wheelchair can respond to speech or operate as a fully autonomous platform.

Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers are developing a voice-operated robotic wheelchair for people with neurological disorders. MIT professor Nicholas Roy is leading the project with MIT professor Seth Teller and residents of the Boston Home outpatient facility.

"Assistive technology tends to have a relatively high rate of abandonment," Roy says, because they are often designed without input from users. However, Boston Home residents are helping the researchers develop the wheelchair to meet their needs.

The wheelchair is designed with a tracker, to help the staff locate the residents, as well as helping the residents find friends. The chair also has a built-in monitor that displays the Boston Home's daily schedule, so residents will know the time of their next social event, outing, or relaxation session. "They can know more about the environment—weather, scheduled events, menus—and exploit that knowledge to make more meaningful choices about how they wish to spend their time," Teller says.

The prototype also can create a mental map of an area after one guided tour using distinguishable landmarks.

View a video of MIT's robotic wheelchair.

From The Boston Globe
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Abstracts Copyright © 2010 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA



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