At a recent hackathon in China organised by Lenovo, a team of makers have created an autonomous wheelchair that is powered by both an Arduino and a Lenovo Phab 2 Pro – a phone  that uses Google’s Project Tango technology.

Project Tango, or just Tango as it’s being called now, is an augmented reality and 3D mapping technology suite that has a variety of uses. In the case of this wheelchair, dubbed “Tanguino” (a portmanteu of ‘Tango” and “Arduino”) it is being used to give the wheelchair eyes and ears to navigate through an environment on its own.

The Phab 2 Pro acts as the brains of the machine, passing down instructions to an Arduino Mega which then drives the motors that move the wheelchair.

The smartphone is running a custom app created in Unity which allows someone in the chair to scan the local area. After that an “Area Description File” is created which overlays waypoints to a live camera feed on the handset. All the user needs to do now is tap on these waypoints and the chair will go to them.


Another feature of the project that was not implemented in time was real time object identification. At the moment the system will work off of data collected before it starts moving. In contrast this incomplete feature will work on the fly.

While it wasn’t finished, you can see it in prototype in this video. 

But as it stands now Tanguino was shown off to the premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Li Keqiang. It even managed to get a TV spot on CCTV – China’s state broadcaster.

One of the people who worked on Tanguino, Dimitris Platis, has uploaded a more specs and details about the project to maker sharing site hackster.io. If you want to learn about the nitty gritty of the project, such as which libraries and controllers it used, or you want some back story on how Platis got involved, definitely give it a read.