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STEERING CLEAR OF BUMPS:
New Navigation System to Help Wheelchair Users
February 7, 2001
System Minimizes Obstacles
The transmission of information is not only one way; when one of the wheelchairs on the system traverses a road, it collects information regarding obstacles and slopes and relays the information back to a central computer via a cellular phone network. The accumulated data is used to determine the best possible routes and to minimize time loss. What is more, the computer aboard the wheelchair has a built-in camera that is capable of sending and receiving images of road width and obstacles, allowing the users to share this information with each other.
Route Database Seen as Key
If all goes smoothly in Setagaya Ward, the developers of the system hope to expand it not only throughout Japan but overseas as well. Masahiko Araki, a senior member of the Setagaya Community Design Center that is cooperating with the development project, foresees life becoming much easier for wheelchair users if the system were further developed to include information concerning wheelchair-accessible restaurants and shops.
"The project was a natural outgrowth of efforts to build robots to meet the nursing-care needs of the elderly and to perform cleaning operations," notes For-A's Yoshihiro Kusuda. "We still have a lot of fine-tuning to do before we can launch the wheelchair commercially, though, and we're looking for additional support--both technical and financial--to help us develop a system that is truly practical.
Copyright (c) 2001 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.