Smart wheelchair: The future is not just a luxury for “Hawkings”

Smart wheelchair: The future is not just a luxury for “Hawkings”

Attention in this issue: Smart Wheelchair

The person in charge of the Chinese Academy of Sciences recently stated that the smart wheelchairs developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and other technological aids for the disabled have been applied during the Beijing Paralympics, bringing more convenience to the disabled.

Former Kui is a researcher at the Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, a doctoral supervisor, deputy director of the High-tech Innovation Center, and the leader of the smart wheelchair project.

In this Paralympic Games, high-tech wheelchairs from various countries appeared one after another, helping disabled athletes to complete one fierce competition after another. Happily, the smart wheelchair developed by the Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences also participated in the service work of the Paralympic Games.

As a service robot, the smart wheelchair has multiple functions such as autonomous navigation, obstacle avoidance, man-machine dialogue, and provision of special services. It can help the disabled and the elderly gain the ability to take care of themselves and work and integrate into society. Smart wheelchairs are usually built by adding a computer and some sensors on the basis of a standard electric wheelchair, or adding a seat on the basis of a mobile robot. The earliest relevant research began in 1986. After more than 20 years of development, researchers from all over the world have successively developed a variety of smart wheelchair platforms.

The control mode changes from person to person

The smart wheelchair is a human-centered control system, so its control system is not designed to be as autonomous as possible. Instead, it should take into account the physical characteristics of the user, effectively compensate for its shortcomings, and give full play to its initiative.

In terms of control modes, three modes are commonly used on smart wheelchairs: automatic mode, semi-automatic mode and manual mode.

In the automatic mode, the user sets the goal, and the smart wheelchair autonomously completes the path planning and tracking to the goal point through the environmental information obtained by itself, such as to the bedroom, living room, etc. This mode is mainly aimed at the elderly and the disabled who are weak in controlling wheelchairs.

Semi-automatic mode is to achieve safe navigation through collaborative control between the user and the wheelchair. Focusing on user control, the wheelchair control system is mainly responsible for local planning and safety detection in the control process.

Manual mode is the user’s full control of the wheelchair through the joystick, which is equivalent to an ordinary electric wheelchair.

People with different levels of disability

There are ways to control the wheelchair

For different groups of people with disabilities, researchers have developed a variety of intelligent wheelchair man-machine interfaces. For those with less disability, higher physical mobility and better awareness, joystick control, button control, steering wheel control, touch screen control, menu control, etc. can be used. For people with higher disabilities and lower physical mobility, researchers can also provide them with voice control, head control, gesture control, tongue movement control, and even electromyographic signal control and brain idea signal control.

Usually, the designer can install a variety of human-machine interfaces according to the degree of disability of the user, so that it can interact with the user in multiple ways and provide safer motion control.

In addition, for users with severe disabilities, some wheelchairs are equipped with lightweight robotic arms to help complete activities such as picking up objects, opening doors, and pouring water. Some smart wheelchairs can use the alternate rotation of two pairs of driving wheels to achieve the purpose of climbing stairs; there are also mechanical legs installed on both sides of the wheelchair, which can climb stairs through the support of mechanical legs.

Many people know the famous physicist Hawking. He suffers from muscular dystrophy and can hardly move his whole body, neither talking nor gestures. But with a smart wheelchair, Hawking can still do a lot of things. He uses two fingers that do not have much effort to operate the electric wheelchair to “walk”. The changes in his eyes and facial muscles will be input to special software through sensors, and processed into text signals, which will be automatically displayed on the screen and synthesized. Voice utterance. He can also talk on the phone, use the remote control to control TVs and VCRs, listen to music, lock doors, switch lights, and write down difficult equations.

Chinese smart wheelchairs serving the disabled

China has carried out research on smart wheelchairs late, but based on its own technical advantages and characteristics, it has also developed unique smart wheelchair platforms, including the multi-modal interactive smart wheelchairs of the Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the use of embedded control systems. Wheelchairs, multifunctional smart wheelchairs of Shanghai Jiaotong University, smart wheelchairs based on head movements, Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, etc.

A low-cost smart wheelchair developed by the Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences appeared at the International Welfare Exhibition during the Paralympic Games. This new type of smart wheelchair is equipped with sensors and has good intelligent control functions. When the wheelchair encounters an obstacle, it can automatically slow down to avoid collision; when the ground in front of the wheelchair has potholes, it can automatically stop moving to prevent falling; the user can use the remote control device to “drive” the wheelchair that is not around to his own By the side; users who cannot directly operate the wheelchair can also control the wheelchair by wearing special gloves or collars, gestures or head movements; etc.

Another smart wheelchair being developed by the Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has more functions and higher performance. For example, in the range covered by the wireless local area network, the wheelchair can use its own vision system to “autonomously navigate” indoors.FamilyManual wheelchair, it can move to the position specified by the user without the user directly controlling the wheelchair; the user can install it on the wheelchair The robot arm can realize tasks that were impossible to complete, such as opening doors, taking water, and picking up items from the ground; doctors or family members can monitor the user’s situation in real time, and can control the movement of the wheelchair through remote control; etc. At present, our country has fully mastered various key technologies of intelligent wheelchair control system and sensor system.

Problems that researchers still need to solve

In the past 20 years, although the research of smart wheelchairs has made great progress, the functions have been continuously enriched, and the safety and reliability have been continuously improved, but there are still certain problems.

First of all, human-computer interaction is still not convenient enough. Although researchers have developed many types of human-computer interaction interfaces, some human-computer interfaces are difficult to accurately distinguish between the unconscious and conscious behaviors of users, and their practicability is poor. Therefore, most smart wheelchairs can only communicate through the human-computer interface. Simple control of the wheelchair.

Secondly, the wheelchair safety system is not perfect. At present, most smart wheelchair platforms pay more attention to the realization of functions, but there is insufficient research on the possibility of danger in various environments and corresponding safeguard measures.

In addition, the current control system and sensor system of smart wheelchairs are too complicated, which causes the cost of smart wheelchairs to be too high, the power consumption is large, and the endurance is difficult to meet actual needs.

The future of industrialization:

Definitely not just a luxury for a few people

Because the current smart wheelchairs basically use the same technical solutions as mobile robots, the cost is very high, and only some special people can use it and it is difficult to enter ordinary families.

However, with the rapid development of embedded technology, intelligent wheelchair controllers based on embedded systems will be able to solve the problems of high cost, high power consumption, and poor endurance of existing controllers. The research team of the Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has conducted in-depth research on the intelligent wheelchair control and sensor system based on the embedded system, completed the development of a variety of special modules, and has developed a new intelligent wheelchair controller. Compared with electric wheelchair controllers, this new type of smart wheelchair controller does not increase the cost much because of the complete use of autonomous technology. Family manual wheelchairs, smart wheelchairs using this controller will also be comparable to the current market The selling price of electric wheelchairs is similar, which is a big step towards the industrialization of smart wheelchairs.

Therefore, we can completely believe that in the near future, different types of smart wheelchairs will enter ordinary families, and smart wheelchairs will not be a luxury that only a few people can afford.

Science Times (2008-9-17 news)

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