WHILL is a Japanese startup that has revolutionised the motorised wheelchair. It’s an omnidirectional wheelchair that has put thought into the usability of the product. It won the Red Dot award in 2014.
The wheelchair is able to handle all kinds of terrain and it able to traverse even on grass and the steep slopes of San Francisco. As you can see the various videos, riding around on this wheelchair is smooth and very responsive. This not just functional but the have added some thought into the experience. Since the wheel is omnidirectional, it makes it easy for the wheelchair to mount a vehicle as long as there’s a slope to the vehicle. I love this feature. It is easy to dismount the wheelchair as the handle on the side can shift out of the way.
The wheelchair is ready for pre-order with a price tag of USD 9,500.
Self driving cars have been in the limelight because of Google’s announcements on their autonomous cars on city streets. This isn’t new given that autonomous vehicle technology research has been ongoing for more than 10 years. The direction now is getting the technology on the road, where the rubber hits the road. Google has shown that they have covered the distance on highways. In their latest revelation, Google have their cars on city streets where things can get pretty messy with many cars, bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians around the vehicle. They have gain confidence to showcase their work in this arena and this is indeed a great achievement. But before this becomes adopted by the masses, we want to look at the little steps that we have been taking to get there.
One component of autonomous vehicles that interest me is Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Advance Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).
ACC normally keeps the car moving at a set speed but intervenes if necessary to avoid keeping too close to the vehicle in front. It takes control of the throttle and the brake of the vehicle but not the steering. ACC is a upgrade to the cruise control of most vehicles. Many have placed their trust on these systems. It says something about how a driver can trust that a collision does not happen when the ACC takes control. This will be applied to Lane Keeping technology in the near future.
There are many other Advance driver assistance systems (ADAS) including, lane departure warning system, collision avoidance system, traffic sign recognition and other systems in development. This is the first stage towards self-driving cars on the road. People need to trust these basic components first before they can let go of the steering wheel. Do we trust cars to drive themselves, given there are human drivers around us. Roads can be a pretty messy place and machines might not be able to react faster than we can.
Self-driving cars are coming. It is a matter of time and they question is are we ready. You can google survey on self-driving cars or autonomous vehicles and you will find that people generally say no but this is a changing view – all thanks to Google! They convince by making it happen, the best way to do it.
Orbotix is a robotic toy maker behind Sphero and Ollie.
They are simple robot toys that can be controlled using an iPhone or an Android based phone. There is just something about seeing things move and kids do get very excited, especially if they can make the robot move the way they want. Games on smartphone are now combining items in the physical world. We have seen this with Anki racing cars.
The company will use this round of funding to further their reach in the global market. These toys are not common in Asia at present.