A New Spin on the Classic Wheelchair

October 24, 2012

Scientists in Japan have people buzzing about their new take on the classic wheelchair.  A research team, led by Shuro Nakajima at Chiba Institute of Technology, has designed a robotic wheelchair that has the ability to climb stairs and street curbs, move on uneven ground and rotate 360-degrees.  This revolutionary device is only a prototype, but it has the potential to change the way people with limited mobility navigate through life.

The device looks just like a regular electric wheelchair, only the wheels are designed to act like legs.  Each wheel is equipped with high-tech sensors that can detect terrain and overcome obstacles, all at the control of a joystick.  Plus, the robotic wheelchair is programmed to absorb movement, which keeps the seat level.  Watch how it works in the video below.

Nakajima set out to create an alternative wheelchair, versus a device like robotic legs, for people with limited mobility.  He told that, “We were particular about using wheels, because this kind of vehicle will mostly move on ordinary paved surfaces. The most efficient way of getting around on paved surfaces is to use wheels, like a car. So, this robot mainly uses wheels, but the wheels can become legs.”

The electric wheelchair is still a work in progress and needs to be tested before it hits the market. Nakajima says, “…we’re at the stage where we can show this robot to the world. In the next phase, we’ll get a variety of people to try it, so we can fine-tune the user experience.”

What do you think about the new prototype?  Please share your thoughts below.




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