Motion sensors and smart navigation aren’t available for most mobility devices, however, one U.K. professor aims to change that with his AI-enabled wheelchairs.

Dr. Konstantinos Sirlantzis, an Intelligent Systems senior lecturer at the University of Kent, is working on a high-tech project called Assistive Devices for empowering Disabled People through robotic Technologies (ADAPT), PCMag reported. The project, which involves smart wheelchairs that can detect movement and watch for obstacles, can help improve people’s lives in the future.

 

 

ADAPT, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the University of Kent, has recruited 10 people with disabilities through a nearby hospital’s neurorehabilitation unit, which focuses on individuals who’ve suffered from brain injuries and strokes.

“We consider our work to be ‘socially robotic assistive technology,’ Dr. Sirlantzis told PCMag. “It helps users to participate more fully in their world through the use of technology."

 

 

Dr. Sirlantzis is taking a modular-focused approach for ADAPT: His team is combining AI and sensing technology to achieve collaborative control of the wheelchairs and conduct assessments of the emotional and physiological state of users.

These smart wheelchairs leverage AI to learn users’ movement preferences, style of driving, and their current physiology. Some of ADAPT’s advanced technologies include tracking the movement of a person’s head, nose, or iris to control wheelchairs, and LiDAR mapping to help with navigation and obstacle warnings.

If Dr. Sirlantzis’ smart wheelchairs become commercially available in upcoming years, people with mobility issues will be able to have more accessible devices that will elevate their comfort, safety, and movement.