Over two million people in the United States rely on the use of a wheelchair to perform daily tasks. Joystick controls on motorized wheelchairs have improved the lifestyles of so many, but are of little value to the visually impaired or patients with restricted hand mobility. Often times these wheelchair users must rely on caretakers to assist them with their mobility, thus limiting their independence. Milpet is an effective access technology research platform centered around improving the quality of life of those confined to wheelchairs. By expanding Milpet's control interface to include speech recognition, those who cannot benefit from a joystick are given new freedoms. Utilizing a map of its environment, localization is performed using LiDAR sensor scans and a particle filtering technique. In addition to simple movement commands such as "turn left", "stop", and "go faster", the speech interface along with localization and navigation modules enable patients to navigate more complex commands. For example, commands such as "take me to the kitchen" instruct Milpet to autonomously drive to the specified location while avoiding walls and other obstacles. This self-driving wheelchair is a huge leap in improving the quality of life for the mobility impaired who cannot benefit from a joystick.
Samuel Echefu, Jacob Lauzon, Suvam Bag, Rasika Kangutkar, Amar Bhatt, Raymond Ptucha, "Milpet – The Self-Driving Wheelchair" in Proc. IS&T Int’l. Symp. on Electronic Imaging: Autonomous Vehicles and Machines, 2017, pp 41 - 49, https://doi.org/10.2352/ISSN.2470-1173.2017.19.AVM-019