Welcome to Electric Wheel chairs and Assistive Technology Devices Showcase!

electric-wheelchair-logo2.jpgAssistive technology devices are rapidly progressing thanks to new breakthrough in research. On electric wheel chairs and assistive technology devices showcase site we provide first hand information on upcoming and future assistive technology devices, electric wheel chairs, motorized wheel chair and power wheel chair devices.... Read reviews of existing and previews of upcoming products and even interviews with developers and researchers! In 2009/2010 timeframe we expect to review first hand - thought controlled electric wheelchair, electric mobility scooter with range of 50 miles, and first personal transporter devices for masses...

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WHILL turns any wheelchair to electric wheelchair

WHILL is an aftermarket accessibility wheelchair add-on that is promising to bring something completely new to wheelchair users.

Not everybody can afford an electric wheelchair, and many users are stuck with manual wheelchair. This might be acceptable for younger people that are generally in better condition and have more strength, but can become irritating with aging, or if disabled person loses a caretaker. In this case up until now the only solution was buying new or used electric wheelchair.

But now, there might be another, more economically viable solution. Small Japanese Startup Company called WHILL, introduced a wheelchair accessory called WHILL. WHILL is a device that turns manual wheelchair into fully electrical wheelchair. The power chair device can be attached to any standard wheelchair, and embraces it.

WHILL works on like Segway device, as its curved control arm that embrace user around his or her waist contain control interface. Invalid controls the device by leaning in either direction, and device follows the direction and steers, much like piloting a sit-down Segway.

Each WHILLs hub contains a 24-volt motor which is powered by Li-ION dry gel battery pack. Charging time is about two hours, and with one fully charged battery pack user can achieve average of 19 miles at top speed of 12.5 mph/20 kmh. WHILL consists of two circular hubs that contain the direct-drive motor, which attaches to the wheels of any wheelchair. At start of 2012 WHILL is still at prototype stage, but company…

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Great news for people with damaged spinal cord

As reported by the Children’s Hospital Boston, their researchers, together with researchers from UC Irvine and UC San Diego managed to stimulate growth of neurons after damage to spinal cord. Newly grown neurons then formed whole synapses. Experiment was achieved on mice, with help of specific enzyme block (PTEN), which blocks the growth of neural cells.

Research is still in very early stage, but it appears that at some future date it may be possible to treat spinal injuries. Article with the results of the study entitled PTEN deletion enhances the Regenerative Ability of adult corticospinal neurons is available on the Nature Neuroscience.

This is undoubtedly a great news for many handicapped, which includes many electric wheelchair users as well.

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Cost effective eye tracking laptop to open new dimension to electric wheelchair bound people with disabilities such as MS

Recent technology fair CeBIT held in Hannover, Germany at start of the month showed some exciting advances in technology, which might benefit people with disabilities.

Swedish researchers from firm Tobii connected with Chinese laptop manufacturer Lenovo and showcase working prototypes of eye tracking laptop. Users were able to interact with computer with just eye movement – which included moving the mouse cursor around the screen and starting various actions.

Both companies are optimistic about further development, and we might see mainstream models with integrated technology in 2 years time. Technology is all there, it just needs to be miniaturized.

This technology, which will open a new world of possibilities to people with disabilities such as MS, which are bound to electric wheelchairs and completely deprived of body movement; seems to be promising because it will also be beneficial to normal, healthy users- as a addon control mechanism to speed up certain tasks (like combining vision, mouse, keyboard) to speed up certain processes etc… This means that as chances are for mass production, price will be mainstream as well!

Looking forward to what Tobii and Lenovo will do next year! Smart helper technologies like eye tracking are becoming more and more important differentiating factors in competition fights between manufacturers… Same for example happened in mobile phones sector where jitterbug cell phone is becoming more and more popular fulfiling special needs of baby boom generation, which were overseen till now…

See demo video below:

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Permobil X850 Corpus Power Wheelchairs

When last year Permobil introduced its new all-terrain electric wheelchair, the X850 Corpus Power Wheelchair, people had doubts. Permobil’s old wheelchair Permobil Trax was a good chair, but as X850 was building on that great foundation most expected a lot… And they sure got it! X850 is not just plain old ordinary wheelchair, as it offers far more than an average wheelchair… X850 boosts a powerful engine, and its structure is designed for cross-country use. It runs great on roads as well – and has no problem even with extreme weather conditions as you can see on video below (floods). X850 performed in our test great on all terrain, and is currently one of most recommended outdoor power wheelchairs in serial production. Permobil X850 Corpus highlights include harden strudy construction, powerfull rear-wheel drive, and even technology from car – ESP (Electronic Steering System). Combine all that with robust suspension mechanism and versatile seat, and X850 can take you anywhere, including far off the beaten track…

On the downside, the price of X850 runs at about $55.000, which makes it out of the reach for majority of people with disability. Also it is extremely big wheelchair, so if you use public transport you can expect troubles.

Specifications:

  • Off-road powered wheelchair
  • Rear wheel drive
  • Fully independent suspension for each wheel.
  • Climbs 6″ obstacles.
  • 180° chair rotation for transfers.
  • Equipped with ESP (Electronic Steering Performance)
  • Servo-steering with a joystick.
  • Programmable controller.
  • 9-mph maximum speed and 5.5-mph for those under 16.
  • 8″ seat elevation
  • Reclining seat.
  • Power tilt and recline seating available.
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    Electric Wheelchairs – (Too?) Long path from development to market…

    As we follow the technological advancements in field of assistive devices for the last five years, we are shocked by products on the market now and 5 years ago. Although we covered many news technology announcements, scientific breakthrougs and wrote about prototype products that are coming to market in 1-2 years, this still did not happen.

    We can not disagree with Merlexi Craft people (manufacturer of plastic wheelchairs in the USA) in comment here when they say that most concept wheelchairs never make it to market even if they receive National Institute of Health funding. Major obstacle on the road to new products is extensive testing and govt regulations regarding to Medicare/caid. While smaller outfits and innovators have always had trouble finding funding; it now looks that bureaucratic/paperwork obstacles are even harder to break, not to mention that you need experienced people/lawyers just to navigate thru all the regulations and updates of updates on regulations…

    Therefore public expects new products from big players, same companies that are on the bleeding development edge in various sectors (robotics, automobilism, autonomous home assistance devices) like Toyota, Honda. But even here – where are the Toyota i-Real? The Toyota i-Swing? The Honda Personal Mobility Device U3-X and Honda’s Robotic Leg or CLEG? Where is the powered ExoSkeleton? Where is the mind controlled electric wheelchairs controller? Where are stem cell powered engines/hybrid batteries? Where and when?

    So for the near term we are not optimistic about the development of the assistive technology market and products. Way from lab and prototype to market is too long, too steep and too expensive!

    NOTE: few words about Merlexi Craft – they are manufacturers of plastic manual wheelchairs, that are cheap (sub $1000) and light. They are made from lightweight plastic, have folding contoured seats, come in various colors and offer quick-release wheels/footrests… Special versions are available for hospitals – and such wheelchair is appropriate for magnetic imaging, is safe, durable and shellock approved… If would be nice to see if company can fit an electric motor on top of the plastic frame and create economically feasible electric wheelchairs for mass market… See introductory video below:

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    Standing up Electric Wheelchairs on the market!

    In start of June 2010 several Chinese business websites (like alibaba.com) added new electric wheelchair model THR-FSP129 to the list of available electric wheelchairs. Product comes from Zhangjiagang Thriving Import & Export co. from Zhangjiagang City. Actual producer is unknown, but what stands out is the design of this electric wheelchair.

    It is one of the rarely available standing up electric wheelchairs. It allows user to actually rise up to standing position, so user is on the same height as other people around – on the eye height. This is very important, and as we wrote before, beneficial for user’s psyche.

    Technical parameters of this electric wheelchair are pretty common. Its length and height is 1,15 x 1,05 meters, overall width is 0,63, and seat is 0,57m above the floor.

    Powertrain of the electric wheelchair consists of two 12V 38Ah batteries, that give 2x 200W of power, which suffices for 20 km maximum reach, and a maximum speed of 7 km/h.

    On the down side, maximum capacity of the chair is only 100kg; and seats dimensions are only 43cm x 43cm, which makes it small for bigger users. Wheelchair is also not the lightest, as it weights 65 kg.

    Highlights of the wheelchair are imported quality controller, and environmentally friendly spraying plastics steel frame. Chair has adjustable and detachable PU armrest and detachable strengthening hold. Both wheels are from expanding rubber.

    Price is still unknown, but as all Chinese merchandise should be negotiable. It remains to be seen whether this electric wheelchairs will come to western markets.

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    Electric powered wheelchair – New concept to change the industry!

    Electric powered wheelchairs are the only way of movement for too many disabled users. But motorized wheelchairs never really changed much from classical wheelchair design and concept – which is more than 100 years old.. Because of this, they are often also very expensive, and inaccessible to many, especially in developing countries.

    But new concept designed by s Ju Hyun Lee, gives hope to change all that. Their proposal for solution is named NEWS (New Electric Wheelchairs) and is still in concept phase.

    The main idea and technological breakthrough is that this is not selfstanding electric powered wheelchair, but rather an motorized wheelchair addon for existing manual wheelchairs. So it actually does not want to replace your existing electric wheelchair; rather it is attached to the standard wheelchair. NEWS gives instant electric motorized power to wheelchair.

    Also the design of the concept is clean, well-thought and robust. It bring the design of 21st century to assistive devices. If NEWS concept becomes a reality, it will definitely change the industry.

    Price wise not much is know, but it should not be expensive – meaning that once mass productions starts, we should see it at very competitive price point, which will make electric wheelchairs available to broader masses of people in need… Meaning it should be perfect for end users and also hospitals,therapy centers and nursing homes…

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    Using iPhone to control electric wheel chair…

    dynamic-controls-wheelchair-2010-01-20_151911America’s Dynamic Controls unveiled its latest technology at world’s top trade fair for those with special needs and requiring care – REHACARE in Germany. Company integrated an iPhone into its power wheelchair electronics. Apple’s iPhone can now be considered accessiblity product, enabling powered wheelchair users to use them as normal while also gaining access to detailed information and control system access of their chair using the device. iPhone or iPod touch (iPhone 3G, 3GS, iPod touch V2.0 and 3.0) can be connected to the wheelchair system, and as result can display chair information in real time. This includes speed in kph or mph, compass heading and detailed wheel chair diagnostics (that interprets problems with the wheel chair).

    dynamic-controls-ichairscreensiPhone can be fitted to any new or existing Dynamic Controls DX2, DX or Shark electric wheel chair.  A cradle is available to mount the iPhone or iPod touch onto the wheelchair, connecting it with control systems. This requires no reprogramming of the wheelchair, and can be done at home. While connected, iPhone is charged from the chair’s battery.

    Upcoming versions of Dynamic Control’s software might even allow further control of the wheel chair thru iPhone interface – something similar as MIT showed with WiFi… First response from user base is positive, as the idea to be able to buy an off the shelf product that has so many features for powered wheelchair users is appealing.

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    Honda Personal Mobility Device U3-X similar to unicycle crossbreads Segway

    honda-personal-mobility-electric-wheel-chair-2009-09-29_224654 Honda announced the personal mobility device, the U3-X. Device looks like robotic unicycle, and is designed to help people with disabilities to move around. Honda will showcase U3-X personal mobility device at Tokyo Motor show later in October.

    U3-X is based on technology developed in Honda’s humanoid robot Asimo. Honda is well known for its R&D in robotics and assistive technology, and although its announcements are many (see the one about artificial robotic leg) most of this is still years away from production and sale. Looks like Honda is competing heavily against local rival Toyota, which is also aggressive on robotics and research – and both move in similar direction (toyota shows segway personal transporter with seat, toyota and mind controlled wheelchair, toyota i-swing personal mobility device)…

    Anyhow, U3-X is on contrary with Toyota’s i-Swing a small device, which is also very portable. It can be carried around and put in trunk with ease. U3-X has a seat height a bit higher than an average person’s waist line, so passenger must “jump” on it to commence the ride. Passenger then puts his his feet to the foot rests (similar as found on motor bikes). The rest is already known from segway – passenger leans in the direction he wants to go, and U3-X personal mobility device moves. It can drive in 8 directions (cross and diagonally as well) and reaches a top speed of 3,7 MHP (5,5 km/h) – meaning that it moves at pace of average persons walk.

    Honda’s chairman Takanobu Ito commented that “And if my legs get a little weak, I would like to have one of these around the house. It makes it easy to move about.”. We guess he has a big house… Honda did not want to comment on price and availability of the U3-X nor any plans to produce similar versions of power wheel chair or electric wheel chair devices like toyota i-swing where user sits and leans back on it…

    See link to video on the next page.
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    New type of robotic electric wheelchair

    robotic-electric-wheelchair Today experts from Veda International Robot Research and Development Centre in Japan, unvieled the prototype of a new type of electric wheelchair. New, high tech robotic wheelchair looks more like a scooter than traditional wheelchair, but it promises greater mobility for injured hospitalized patients, and hopes to replace not only existing wheelchairs but also two-wheeled vehicles of future.

    New electric wheelchair is called Rodem. User sits on the four-wheeled wheelchair similar like on scooter. User rests his knees and chest on the cushions, steering the wheelchair with a joystick wile holding on to motorbike-style handles. The result is that user feels less load on their body.  

    The whole new approach to electric wheelchair design allows users to mount the device more easily, and dismount it quickly and with less strain and pain as well. Target audience are elderly, hospitalized for smaller injuries which prevent them from freely moving around without help. Rodem is lessening reliance on care-givers to lift these patients.

    Rodem promises greater mobility. Its prototype was demonstrated in the medical university in Tokyo. The two main wheels of the Rodem are independently driven by a control valve type lead battery. Autonomy of the electric wheelchair is around four hours per charge. Maximum moving speed is 6km/h, but can be set to lower limits as well. The dimensions of the Rodem are equivalent to the size of a normal wheelchair, and it weights about 200 lbs (100kg). It also features small minimum turning diameter.

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