Autonomous Wheelchair

The project's goal is to enhance an ordinary ordinary powered wheelchair using sensors to perceive the wheelchair's surroundings, a speech interface to interpret commands, a wireless device for room-level location determination, and motor-control software to effect the wheelchair's motion. The robotic wheelchair learns the layout of its environment (hospital, rehabilitation center, home, etc.) through a narrated, guided tour given by the user or the user's caregivers. Subsequently, the wheelchair can move to any previously-named location under voice command (e.g., "Take me to the cafeteria"). This technology is appropriate for people who have lost mobility due to brain injury or the loss of limbs, but who retain speech. The technology can also enhance safety for users who use ordinary joystick-controlled powered wheelchairs, by preventing collisions with walls, fixed objects, furniture and other people. We envision that a voice-commandable wheelchair could improve the quality of life and safety of tens of thousands of users. Moreover, considerable health improvements and cost savings could accrue through the reduction or elimination of collision-induced injuries such as wounds and broken limbs.