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A team at Imperial College London has received, as part of Mobility Unlimited Challenge Discovery Award, a research prize to develop an eye-controlled, artificially intelligent wheelchair. They hope to make the self-driving, self-navigating wheelchair, designed for those who can lead with their gaze, available to the public at low cost. Dr Aldo Faisal from Imperial College said: “Our wheelchair will help people to navigate their homes and the world outside. If the user can move their eyes to look at the world, they can operate the wheelchair that reads their intentions from their eyes.”

The self-mapping, self-navigating, self-driving, artificially intelligent wheelchair will combine existing widely available technologies, such as eye tracking system and laptops, with the power of AI to create a wheelchair which, the team at Imperial hope, will become accessible and affordable.

The electric wheelchairs use a Light Detection and Ranging sensor (LiDAR), which is an infrared-based sensor commonly used on self-driving cars, to build a 360-degree map of the user’s environment in real time.

By gathering information on eye movements, the eye tracker and the AI programme define where the wheelchair should move to and guides it to avoid obstacles. Because of the AI and LiDAR components users can now specify that they want to drive out of a cluttered room and let the wheelchair to navigate the route, avoiding obstacles without further human input.

Dr Faisal said: “Our wheelchair is a great example of a frugal innovation. It also demonstrates that the power of AI is becoming accessible and affordable to regular people. We at Imperial are harnessing its power to improve lives.”

If won, the prize for the next stage of the Mobility Unlimited Challenge will go towards making necessary improvements and putting the wheelchair on the market.



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