Mind-reading robot wheelchairs being developed for Japan’s OAPs
In many developed nations an ageing population is a problem which will need addressing sooner rather than later. Japan’s problem is bigger than many with its large amount of older people, decades of low birth rates and low immigration rates. At least the government has a plan; it’s Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry is looking to deploy robot wheelchairs to help cater for the old and infirm population’s majority of needs.
The ministry will co-operate with both academic researchers and tech companies to get plans off the ground and is putting up ¥500 million to help development costs next year. We may see the first fruits of this labour by 2017 and the robot wheelchairs should be in widespread use by the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Rather different to the battery powered wheelchairs and mobility aids we see now the government’s planned personal OAP transport devices will be able to read the brainwaves of users and propel themselves automatically. So users will have hands-free and the robot wheelchair will just go where they want it to.
Researchers, including those at ATR in Kyoto, have already begun experimenting with these mobility aid vehicles. Users’ brain waves have successfully been interpreted, with short distances covered by the robots which also could be told to do some simple home appliance interactions.
We also hear that these wheelchair robots will learn from each other. If a particular route has obstacles or should be avoided for other reasons this shared information can help others.
Story first seen on The Sydney Morning Herald