A Real-Time Path Planner for a Smart Wheelchair Using Harmonic Potentials and a Rubber Band Model
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We present an efficient path planner for smart wheelchairs based on harmonic potential fields. While the use of harmonic fields can always guarantee finding an existing path, they are extremely computational intensive and a sufficiently detailed map of the environment may lead to an unfeasible solution for the path. Also, since our target application is for the navigation of a smart wheelchair, for people with severe disabilities, the path provided by the harmonic field is frequently too sharp and needs to be smoothened. In order to address the first problem, we propose a parallel algorithm implemented using Graphics Processor Units (GPUs) on the Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA) platform. And for the second problem, we developed a rubber band model that provides extra forces to be added to the attracting forces of the harmonic fields. This model assumes that the path is an elastic line, a rubber band, connecting the source and destination points. This rubber band simulates the internal tension forces trying to tighten the line. As the result section demonstrates, both the original path from the harmonic field alone and the path smoothened by the rubber band model have approximate the same length, but the first path contains many bumps, sharp angles, and zig-zags, while the second one provides a much more comfortable ride for the passenger of the wheelchair. Either one is executed in real-time, allowing the proposed method to be used for real navigation of smart wheelchairs.
Proceedings of the 2010 IEEE International Conference on Robotic System (IROS).