The robotic wheelchair that can take on steps

the robotic wheelchair that can take on steps roboticsWhile the urban landscapes of many towns and cities cater much better to wheelchair users these days in terms of accessibility, some public spaces still throw up obstacles when least expected, with steps surely the bane of every wheelchair-bound person. If there’s no ramp nearby, they’re left to look for another way to their destination, an inconvenient, time-wasting and doubtless frustrating experience every time it happens.

The issue has inspired Japanese researchers at the Chiba Institute of Technology (CIT) near Tokyo to come up with a specially-designed robotic wheelchair that can climb steps.

The four-wheel drive, five-axis wheelchair is controlled using a joystick and moves along on its wheels until it comes to an obstacle. Sensors on the wheelchair then assess the surroundings before the vehicle cleverly hoists itself up and over the obstacle.

the robotic wheelchair that can take on steps robot

A particularly neat feature is that its mechanics ensure the seat stays parallel with the ground, helping the wheelchair and its occupant to maintain perfect balance and avoid any tipping feeling – great not just for going up and down steps but also for when navigating steep ramps.

“[The wheelchair] has various sensors and it uses them in combination to assess how big a step is,” Shuro Nakajima, associate professor at CIT and the person leading the team behind the wheelchair’s development, told DigInfo TV.

The vehicle also is also capable of lining up its wheels, helping it to turn a perfect circle in a tight space.

Though currently a concept design, Nakajima is pleased with his team’s progress, explaining that the robotic wheelchair’s motion is pretty much worked out, with the next stage of development involving getting a variety of people to try it out in the real world to fine tune the user experience.

The neat design would certainly be a boon to wheelchair users for whom even one step in an unexpected place can prove a challenge to navigate, though it may be a while before it becomes commonly available. You can check out the vehicle in action below.

Smart Home

Ford’s ingenious bed for couples keeps mattress hogs in their own half

Drawing on its driverless-car technology, Ford has created a smart bed for couples that uses sensors and a conveyor belt to prevent either occupant from straying onto the other half of the mattress while they doze.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Mobile

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Emerging Tech

Photosynthesizing artificial leaf may be the air-cleaning tool we’ve dreamed of

Engineers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have invented an artificial leaf which could both clean up our air and provide a cost-effective type of fuel. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-powered website creates freakishly lifelike faces of people who don’t exist

No, this isn't a picture of a missing person. It's a face generated by a new artificial intelligence on the website ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com. Here's how the impressive A.I. works.
Emerging Tech

Global Good wants to rid the world of deadly diseases with lasers and A.I.

Global Good, a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and Bill Gates, aims to eradicate diseases that kill children in developing nations. It tackles difficult problems with high-tech prototypes.
Emerging Tech

China’s mind-controlled cyborg rats are proof we live in a cyberpunk dystopia

Neuroscience researchers from Zhejiang University, China, have created a method that allows humans to control the movements of rats using a technology called a brain-brain interface.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s MAVEN orbiter has a new job as a communication relay for Mars 2020

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter has been collecting atmospheric readings but now is taking on a new job as a data relay satellite for the Mars 2020 mission that launches next year.
Emerging Tech

Underground volcanoes could explain possible liquid water on Mars

Last year scientists discovered there could be liquid water on Mars. Now a research team argues that for there to be liquid water, there must be an underground source of heat -- and they believe underground volcanoes could be responsible.
Emerging Tech

The 10 most expensive drones that you (a civilian) can buy

OK, these drones may be a bit beyond your budget: Check out the most expensive drones in the world, from industrial giants to highest-end filming tools.
Emerging Tech

Of all the vape pens in the world, these 5 are the best

Vaping concentrates has become significantly more popular, especially among those that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. But don’t use just any vape pen: we found these five devices to be our favorites in 2018.
Computing

The HoloLens 2 will be announced at MWC. Here's what we know about it so far

The HoloLens 2 is ripe for an announcement. Here's what Microsoft has revealed so far, what's likely in store for the next generation HoloLens, and everything that we know about this mixed reality headset.
Emerging Tech

A river of stars one billion years old flows across the southern sky

Astronomers have identified a river of stars flowing across our galaxy and covering most of the southern sky. The estimated 4000 stars that comprise the stream were born together and have been moving together for the last one billion years.