It’s no Stephen Hawking wheelchair, but the voice-controlled prototype developed by three final year students of engineering may prove an affordable boon for those who have lost the use of their legs and, more so, if they happen to be visually impaired.
Ajin Nadh V A, Harisankar U K and Hemand U S Kumar, students of Electronics and Instrumentation at Sarabhai Institute of Science and Technology (SIT), have developed, as part of their final year project, a wheelchair that has an automated navigation system which can be activated and controlled by voice command.
“This means that once the user gives the command, the wheelchair can take the person from one place to the other,” explained Harisankar. “For example, if you give the command ‘Bedroom’, the wheelchair navigates to the bedroom while avoiding obstacles.”
This is done using radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and infrared sensors to help with the navigation and also avoid obstacles on its path.
The wheelchair has also been incorporated with a voice recognition technology so that users can use the chair without being dependant on others. Apart from voice, the chair can also be controlled by a joystick.
“Once the command is given, the navigation scheme will find the way without further help from the user. Even a person who is visually impaired can use the chair and not be dependant on others,” said Ajin Nadh, who claimed that the inspiration for developing a special wheelchair came after seeing his neighbour who was differently-abled.
The Voice Activated Navigation Expert (VANE), as they call their project, is, the students claimed, in its “infancy and is a miniature version”. They estimate that a life-size version would cost around `18,000.
“Once we get the funds, we would also like to develop the chair so that it can be transformed into a stretcher as well,” said Harisankar. The project was developed over the course of four months under guidance from their Department Head Satya Narayana and Sajith Kumar of KELTRON, the students said.