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Low cost smart wheelchair

SmartWheelchairLOGO

This page is not strictly about robots. It tells the story of a kid, and his mom. I am accidentally part of this story. The aim is to realize a robotic wheelchair that will allow disabled people to gain mobility and independency. The motivation of this project is that existing smart wheelchairs are very expensive and they are not so smart. The idea is to realize such a vehicle using low cost hardware such as LEGO MINDSTORMS, a netbook, other off-the-shelf technology, and custom sensors.

4 August 2008: Could LEGO MINDSTORMS technology be the brain of a low cost smart wheelchair for children? That’s what Gina Wilson Burns asked me time ago. We share the basic idea that the available off-the-shelf technology, contained even in toys, can be used to improve the quality of life of disabled people.

 Hi Daniele,
I am the mum of a five year old little boy who is severely disabled.  I am frustrated by the lack of equipment to allow him a degree independent mobility and freedom despite him being immobile and partially blind.

I […] wondered if some of that technology could be incorporated with larger motors and appropriate light weight seating to create a SMART powered NXT wheelchair.[…]
Ideally I would be interested in line following options, possibly collision avoidance[…] and maybe, down the track some of the verbal command options.  The current wheelchairs out there are good, but so heavy and not suitable in around other five year olds.  […] Do you think it would be possible?

You can find pics of our son Mac on Youtube and his story.

14 March 2010: I received an invitation to Campus Party Europe, a big event held in Madrid (Spain), where talents from all Europe could meet, show and share innovative and creative ideas. I submitted the low cost smart wheelchair project, that was selected as finalist.

InkyEDtop22 March 2010: Gina posted this entry in Mac’s BLOG about the project.

I have a dream…

NXT_LGV11 April 2010: Here’s the video of the first localization and navigation experiments of the first prototype of LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Laser guided vehicle.

15 April 2010: Here is the presentation of the project at Campus Party Europe (Madrid).  The project received an honor mention award, but as you know, honor mentions do not pay research projects!

22 May 2010. The project is proceeding very slowly. Now I am the only one working on it in my spare time, that is very limited. Any help is greatly appreciated to keep this “part-time” project become a “full-time” project.

20 December 2010: The company NEATO Robotics has released for the US market a vacuum cleaner robot that features a very cheap laser scanner, that is ideal for the target price of the wheelchair prototype. Even more interesting, this laser scanner has been already hacked, and can be used independently from the vacuum cleaner robot. To see the laser module disassembled, click here. The robot is not sold to Italy, and this creates some problem. However, I’m looking for a way to get one, take it apart and continue researching.

12 April 2013: Robopeak, a Chinese R&D company, has developed a 2D laser scanner very much based on the NEATO laser scanner. Hopefully it will hit the market at an affordable price.