MIT-developed smart wheelchair does auto navigation

wheelchair-4-enlarged I live right pretty close to MIT and sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t even walk by any of the buildings for fear that my average brain might pollute some or all of the strange and wonderful things they’ve got cooking.

Like this wheelchair, for instance. It can learn a given building’s layout and then take its occupant to a particular room or location via voice command. So you could say, “Let’s swing by Janine’s desk and see what she’s got on today,” and the chair would find its way to Janine’s desk without the owner having to do any serious manual navigation.

Similar wheelchairs have been attempted in the past but “rely on an intensive process of manually capturing a detailed map of a building,” according to MIT News. This new creation behaves more like a human in that it requires an initial tour of a place and can remember important identifiers. The example given is a tour of a nursing home where you’d say things like “this is my room” or “here we are in the foyer.”

The system relies on a network of Wi-Fi nodes set up around a particular building and there’s currently a full-blown network in place at a nearby nursing home. The project is being developed by MIT professors Nicholas Roy and Seth Teller along with research scientist Bryan Reimer. Funding has been provided by Nokia and Microsoft.