Robotic wheelchair climbs stairs, gives legs to the disabled

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As useful as the wheelchair is for those with physical disabilities, it has some obvious limitations. You can't use it to navigate stairs, for instance, and not every building has elevators or ramps. But one team of researchers wants to attack this problem.

This robotic wheelchair concept by the Chiba Institute of Technology has its wheels on legs and it can transform itself to take on a flight of stairs. The four-wheel-drive chair is designed so that each wheel can move independently or turn a perfect circle. It's also designed to keep the seat level, even when the chair "walks" up a flight of stairs.

The robochair can automatically figure out what it needs to do to navigate thanks to sensors on its legs that study the terrain and distance of obstacles ahead. If the sensors fail, the wheelchair has a fallback system that detects increased resistance when it runs into an obstacle.

The wheelchair is still a concept, so you won’t see it for sale just yet, but researchers plan to test it in the real world. Hopefully this idea tests well, so those with disabilities will be able to quite literally tackle any obstacle ahead.

[Chiba Institute of Technology via Diginfo TV and Engadget]

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