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The future is now: Assistive, inclusive tech to look out for

Angel Tesorero /Abu Dhabi
angel@khaleejtimes.com Filed on January 15, 2018
The future is now: Assistive, inclusive tech to look out for
Autonomous pod for People of Determination at the Dubai Health Forum. - Photo by Leslie Pableo

A peek into the technology of tomorrow that's set to change lives

Autonomous EV for PoD

A prototype of this self-driving electric vehicle (EV) for people of determination (PoD) is currently being tested at a couple of gated communities in Dubai, said Gautam Ahuja of the UAE-based DigiRobotics.

The two-seater Renault Twizy EV has no steering wheel, but works on voice command and touch screen. It has four wheels, can reach a maximum speed of 70-80 kph and run for six hours on a single charge (which takes around two hours). Safety features include anti-collision sensors (front, back and sides) and one 360-degree Lidar (light detection and ranging) camera that uses laser light to sense surfaces and produce highly accurate range measurement.

There is also a driver's airbag, four-point safety belt at the front and a three-point one at the rear. The ultra-compact vehicle works on a single-gear transmission and measures 2.32m in length, 1.19m in width and 1.46m in height. The vehicle's frame and body offer extra protection for the occupants, Ahuja told Khaleej Times.

How does it work? A digital mapping of a designated area should be done first and uploaded to the system. Then, the occupant enters his/her destination through voice command or by typing on the touchscreen and the vehicle starts moving. The EV can also alter its course should there be immovable obstacles. As it is self-driving, it can also park itself.

The main purpose of the EV is to provide mobility to people of determination. The price of the vehicle starts at Dh200,000, according to DigiRobotics.

Aid for the visually-impaired

Currently being developed by IBM, the technology is a smartphone-based system that provides visually-impaired persons a turn-by-turn navigation assistance based on accurate real-time localisation over large spaces.

The app provides timely and efficient instructions, according to Daisuke Sato, PhD, researcher at IBM Tokyo. In addition to navigation capabilities, it also informs the user about immediate points-of-interest such as pharmacies, book stores, shops, etc that were uploaded into the system.

The app is available on iTunes and is being pilot-tested at Tokyo International Airport and several US airports, Sato added.

The technology works like a GPS for the visually-impaired, Dubai-based American expat Andie Pham Brodowski told Khaleej Times. "NavCog (Navigation Cognition) uses IoT (internet of things). We install beacons which then send signals to our users; we are now currently developing facial recognition to easily distinguish things," she said.

"As we add more information, the technology also develops and eventually, it can carefully distinguish between objects like differentiating between a water bottle with a glass." Brodowski said the technology is best for enclosed and controlled large spaces such as airports and malls.

"With NavCog, visually-impaired persons can move freely and independently, guided in complex and unfamiliar environments," Brodowski noted.

Autonomous ambulance drone

This future health tech is in the research and development (R&D) phase. The idea was born from the debate on how to make healthcare accessible and specifically, how to deliver emergency medial kits faster than an ambulance, robotics engineer Aswin Sarang told Khaleej Times.

The ambulance drone prototype has an average speed of 60kph and a flight time range of 30 minutes on full charge and can carry a payload of up to 5kg. The drone is able to fly autonomously, locating the destination via GPS coordinates. It has a carbon composite body, eight motors, one front 3D camera and a 360 Lidar camera.

"We developed this drone as a faster and more efficient alternative in delivering medical kits or emergency meds from one hospital to another or from the hospital to any accident sites," Sarand said.

"The drone is able to fly autonomously and we are improving its ability to avoid obstacles. In one year's time, we have this drone will be commercially available in Dubai," he added.

angel@khaleejtimes.com

Angel Tesorero





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