Kerala students invent India’s first self-driving wheelchair, operated using mobile app

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In a major breakthrough, a group of student researchers in Kerala have invented a low-cost self-driving wheelchair that can be operated using just a smartphone app.

The students from the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Kerala, said that their new innovation worked on Robotic Operating System.

self-driving wheelchair
photo: Deccan Chronicle

Named “Self-E”, the revolutionary wheelchair uses ROS to create a map of the surrounding space, along with static and dynamic obstacles, using a laser sensor and displays it through a smartphone app, reported IANS.

The user can then touch any point on the generated map and the wheelchair will drive to that place automatically without user intervention.

“The unique Self-E self-driving wheelchair now needs to be tested in different environments like hospitals and airports with patients and wheelchair users. We hope to commercialize the product,” the news agency quoted Rajesh Kannan Megalingam, Assistant Professor at the varsity.

Self-E works by mapping the surrounding environment, including dynamic and static obstacles such as people, walls, pillars, tables, chairs, etc. using a laser sensor called LiDAR.

The map is automatically loaded onto an Android smartphone or tablet through a specially developed app.

Self-E’s autonomous operation allows users to relax and sip a cup of coffee, read a newspaper or chat with friends as the wheelchair takes them to the desired destination point on its own.

“Users can have complete control over the wheelchair without anyone’s help. On the other hand, if some patients have a problem in using a smartphone, a friend or family member or assistant can use the Android app to transport them without the need to physically push the wheelchair.” said Chinta Ravi Teja, a student at the varsity.

Teja, along with Sarath Sreekanth and Akhil Raj have developed the Self-E wheelchair.

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