Adaptive Tech Roundup: Incredible New Wheelchairs!

It’s always exciting when someone comes up with a new, innovative wheelchair that can help us thrive. Here are four that recently caught my eye.

Autonomous Wheelchair Can Take You to Your Gate at the Airport — All By Itself

WHILL Autonomous Model A power wheelchair

The WHILL Autonomous Model A power wheelchair’s claim to fame is its ability to transport airline passengers to their gates without anyone’s help. 

Simply transfer into the wheelchair (which stays at the airport), select your gate on the touchscreen, and tap “start”. The Model A is preprogrammed with all the necessary route information, and it can independently detect and avoid obstacles along the way using sensors and automatic brakes. In the near future, WHILL says, passengers will also be able to stop at predetermined locations like restrooms, shops, and restaurants.

WHILL’s autonomous wheelchair service has been tested successfully at airports in Atlanta, San Jose, Grand Rapids, and Manitoba. The company says this service is part of its suite of walking-area mobility products and services. For example, WHILL offers manual-drive rental wheelchairs in malls, museums, and other destinations; multi-day vacation rentals; and two electric models, the Model C2 and more compact Model F, for full-time use. 

We all know how tough airline travel can be with a disability, so hopefully the Model A will make it just a little easier. The Model A received an Innovation Award at the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show. 

New Off-Road Power Wheelchair Has Zero-Degree Turning Radius

Off-road wheelchair with zero-degree turning radius
Photo courtesy of Adapt Ability

Adapt Ability has invented an electric off-road wheelchair – with a difference. Unlike tracked models sometimes found at national and state parks, this one only has two wheels and balances using a gyroscope, similar to a Segway. The tires are pneumatic for a better ride off pavement, and an Air Ride cushion (the same type that long-distance truck drivers use) absorbs shock.

The wheelchair, dubbed the Adapto, can go up to 35 miles on a charge at a top speed of 12 mph (19.3 kmh). You can electronically raise the seat up to 5.5 inches (14 cm) for conversations closer to eye level.

One of the Adapto’s best features is its zero-degree turning capability. This, combined with the fact that it only has two wheels, means the chair essentially can pirouette on a dime for fantastic maneuverability in tight spaces.

REBOOTER Debuts Upgraded Electric and Carbon Fiber Wheelchairs

New REBOOTER wheelchairs E60 and LT20 wheelchairs.
Photo courtsey of REBOOTER

ROBOOTER, a leading manufacturer and supplier of power wheelchairs, has unveiled two new products: an upgraded electric wheelchair called the E60, and a carbon fiber wheelchair called the LT20. 

Based on the frame design of its predecessor, the E40, the ROBOOTER E60 has a simple two-step folding mechanism and ergonomic backrest. It has 10-inch omni-directional front wheels complemented by shock-absorbing springs. You can turn 360 degrees in place with very little effort for better maneuverability indoors and a better ride on complex road surfaces.

The LT20 wheelchair’s carbon fiber frame makes it both compact and lightweight at 26.9 pounds (12.2kg). Even so, it can support up to 220 pounds (100kg). It can fit into the trunk of a car when folded or easily be carried onto a bus, train, or subway. 

Suzuki Reveals Concept Four-Wheeled Mobility Device That Can Handle Stairs

Suzuki MOQBA wheelchair
Photo courtesy of Suzuki

This one isn’t available yet, but I thought it was interesting. Suzuki, famous for its motorcycles, debuted something called the Modular Quad Based Architecture (MOQBA) at the Japan Mobility Show this year. It’s an electric, modular mobility device with four wheels mounted on articulating legs, which means it can tackle stairs and other obstacles.

The MOQBA – something of a cross between a small ATV and a quad bike – sports a saddle and handlebars like a regular motorcycle. There are three riding modes:  Chair, Standing, and Stretcher. 

Because of its modularity and the ability to attach various accessories to the chassis, the device has a lot of potential uses – for example, as a medical stretcher or a way to carry boxes. However, its stair-climbing prowess means that people with disabilities are among those who could benefit the most. 

Unfortunately, the company has not said when or if a commercial version will be released. But given the other stair-climbing wheelchairs on the market, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see something like it sooner rather than later. TwP

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