Thick gravel, mud, snow, steep ramps or hills . . . They might get a pedestrian a little dirty or out of breath, but to someone in an electric wheelchair, they could mean terrain that’s simply too difficult to cross alone.
To address this problem, researchers at the Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering are working on technology that will enable electric-powered wheelchairs to detect hazardous terrain and automatically adjust their control settings to maneuver more safely.
Emmanuel Collins is the John H. Seely Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the college and director of Florida State’s Center for Intelligent Systems, Control and Robotics (http://www.eng.fsu.edu/ciscor/) (CISCOR). He said that a device known as a laser line striper, originally developed for military use, has been adapted to classify terrain conditions so the wheelchair control system can self-adjust.
“I’m inspired by the idea of applying technology originally meant for the battlefield to improve the quality of everyday life for injured soldiers and others,” Collins said.