July 5, 2018
Coimbatore: Three final year B Tech students from Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham have developed a self-driving wheelchair.
Chinta Ravi Teja, Sarath Sreekanth and Akhil Raj, led by Assistant Professor of Electronics and Communications Dr Rajesh Kannan Megalingam, managed to produce the prototype at less than Rs 1 lakh when imported ones are expensive.
“Such comparatively low cost promises to be a boon to wheelchair-bound patients in India once the technology is successfully commercialised,” said a college statement.
Called ‘Self-E’, the wheelchair uses a robotic operating system (ROS) for autonomous navigation. It creates a map of the surrounding environment and static as well as dynamic obstacles using a laser sensor, and displays it through a smartphone app. The user can touch any point on the generated map, and the wheelchair will drive to that place automatically without user intervention, navigating its path and avoiding obstacles
Chinta Ravi said “The self-driving wheelchair allows patients to be easily transported from one place to another anywhere at a hospital, airport or even at home. If patients are able to operate a smartphone, they are relieved from the continuous use of traditional joystick to steer the wheelchair. They can have complete control over the wheelchair without anyone’s help. On the other hand, if some patients have a problem in using a smartphone, a friend or family member or assistant can use the android app to transport them without the need to physically push the wheelchair.”
Self-E can also be used at homes, retirement communities, assisted living communities, restaurants and washrooms.
The three students have been working for the last two years as junior researchers at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s Humanitarian Technology Lab, where Dr Rajesh is the, director.
“The self-driving wheelchair is unique in the sense that it is the first in India built by research lab of a university without any collaboration with foreign universities or companies,” said Dr Rajesh.
“It now needs to be tested in different environments like hospitals and airports with patients and wheelchair users. The current version is a successful prototype and, with the help of technology business incubator of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, we hope to commercialise the product,” he added.