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Healthcare robots will be widely used in the next five to ten years, says IEEE

September 19, 2018
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Wheelchairs have come a long way in the last 50 years. Electric wheelchairs became popular for helping veterans of the World War II and represented a great stride forward in technology and accessibility at the time. But modern robotics will transform wheelchairs as we know it, greatly improving the lives of those who rely on one for day-to-day tasks.

One of today’s most advanced wheelchairs is being pioneered by Ming Liu, IEEE Senior Member and Assistant Professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Liu’s wheelchair is very much a robot, and can learn how to navigate complex environments: “When the robot moves around, it creates a 3-D representation of the environment, and then the robot will analyze this map so that it knows where the difficult parts are and how to transform itself so it can automatically move from point A to point B,” says Liu. The wheelchair does, quite literally, transform itself. Elements of the chair can adjust automatically to allow it to go up and down the stairs without requiring any user input. “The adaptation to use this wheelchair will be quite handy and very easy,” he says. “I think healthcare robots will be widely used in the next 5-10 years,” says Liu. “There are still some challenges we need to overcome; for example, society needs to accept healthcare robots, and be educated that humans can coexist with robotic systems and that they’re safe to use.”

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