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KT unveils electric wheekchairs attached with AI and automatic call functions at MWC

By Lim Chang-won Posted : March 2, 2022, 11:09 Updated : March 2, 2022, 11:09

[Photo by Shin Seung-hoon]

BARCELONA -- Electric wheelchairs that enhanced user convenience and safety functions with artificial intelligence and internet of things (IoT) technologies were unveiled by South Korea's major telecom company, KT, at MWC, a mobile device exhibition in Barcelona, Spain. They can automatically make emergency calls for help by recognizing collisions and abnormal situations.

 In collaboration with Hycore, a domestic robot system developer, KT has developed two types of motorized wheelchairs with automatic auxiliary driving functions. One is an IoT model and the other is an AIoT model. They can be easily loaded into vehicles because their weight is 27 kg and 30 kg, respectively. 

KT said that a hand-pushed manual wheelchair can be used as an IoT electric wheelchair by installing an IoT joystick and an electric motor wheel kit. If an autonomous driving device is additionally installed, it becomes an AIoT wheelchair that enables automatic auxiliary driving. 

 "When the electric wheelchair is overturned, a sensor can detect it," Cho Young-bin, deputy head of KT's IoT platform business team, told Aju Business Daily. He said that breathing difficulty or heart rate checks are technically possible in partnership with healthcare companies. If an accident is detected, safety measures can be taken by automatically calling nearby shelters or guardians through emergency calls based on IoT communication technology.

The AIoT electric wheelchair can return to its original position with its AI camera automatically recognizing topographic features and collecting data to create a map. "From the second half of this year, we will distribute IoT electric wheelchairs and AIoT electric wheelchairs with automatic auxiliary driving functions to domestic hospitals, government offices, and nursing facilities," Cho said.

Compared to manual wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs that can be controlled using a joystick or other devices are handier for moving on the streets but they are not suited for indoor operations as they are larger and can easily damage people or obstacles. Autonomous wheelchairs that can detect obstacles, select routes and move to a chosen destination have been tested for use at hospitals and airports. However, high costs have hampered commercialization.

South Korea's Hyundai auto group has been involved in the development of self-driving wheelchairs based on an "in-wheel" system that can be attached to a manual wheelchair, along with cameras, ultrasonic sensors and a lidar system that measures distance by illuminating the target with laser light.

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