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Robotic Wheelchairs helping users drive safely

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The FP7 project RADHAR (Robotic ADaptation to Humans Adapting to Robots) has developed an intelligent wheelchair that enables people with cognitive or physical challenges to independently drive around in an everyday-life environment.

The FP7 project RADHAR (Robotic ADaptation to Humans Adapting to Robots) has developed an intelligent wheelchair that enables people with cognitive or physical challenges to independently drive around in an everyday-life environment.

Driving a wheelchair can be very difficult or become very tiring. As a result, the user may over-steer the wheelchair or not have enough strength to steer it. To help the most vulnerable users, the robot judges if the driver of the wheelchair has become too tired to control it and provides more assistance to bring the user home safely. Researchers from five different European countries have developed an intelligent system with advanced sensors, which allows the robot to identify, interpret and correct confusing or weak signals from the driver and to help the wheelchair user navigate in various environments.

The driver of the wheelchair is able to decide how much help he or she needs. Meanwhile, the robot can correct the projected path using information from online 3D-laser sensors reading the terrain. It is also equipped with cameras monitoring the position of the user in order to be able to judge if he or she is awake and in control. The robot takes in information on the surroundings, the position and the focus of attention of the driver; it then adjusts the path avoiding dangers, such as steps or obstacles. The robot also has haptic sensors in the joystick used by the driver. These sensors use tactile feedback sensing the touch of the user to measure how much force is being used. It then uses all the sensors together to interpret the user's intention and the environment and is then able to either make small corrections in steering or to take more control and navigate the wheelchair around safely.

The RADHAR project is led by the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Division PMA at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, PMA (K.U.Leuven). It is supported by the European Commission Framework Programme 7.

The project's final demonstration will take place on Thursday 26 September 2013 at the National Centre for Multiple Sclerosis (NMSC) in Melsbroek, Belgium.

The following demonstrations are planned for the day (live or projection of recorded movies):

  • Graphical User Interface
  • Haptic joystick
  • Autonomous navigation
  • Safety measures
  • Traversability analysis
  • Pedestrian detection and tracking
  • Attention modelling
  • Detection of whether limbs are outside the wheelchair
  • Socially compliant motion planning

The intention with the demonstrations is to assess the added value of such technologies to improve the quality of life of the user.

The programme of the event can be found here.

More information on the project, its aims and results, can be found here.

Robotics at the European Commission please visit our sites here:

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