Friday, October 30, 2015

Wheelchair Design Uses Segway Tech to Be Hands Free

New Zealander Kevin Halsall watched his good friend relegated to a wheelchair after a skiing accident left him paralyzed. The transition was especially unbearable for someone who had been athletically active outdoors, but Halsall saw a way to ensure being handicapped did not mean his friend would also have to watch his body physically deteriorate.

Four years and three prototypes later, Halsall is drawing cross-continental praise for his patented wheelchair, the Ogo. The Ogo can be customized, is lightweight, battery-powered, and has a cutting-edge fiberglass hull. But its best feature utilizes technology that's been around for years that in retrospect it is a wonder no one had thought to implement it: the Segway gyroscope.

As the video above shows, the Ogo's seat responds to the direction of weight leaning on it. A driver can lean forward, backwards, or side to side, and the chair's Segway-implemented system will move accordingly. No controls are needed and as a side benefit, the driver's core muscles stay active in steering, an issue that directly addresses the unfortunate attrition from a seated life.

Although this product may not help all wheelchair-users (there are still many paraplegics without the use of lower back and rump muscles needed to steer), the Ogo still counts as a step forward in helping many of them not only explore the average terrain, but the exceptional as well. Halsall's design has steadily gained in funding, winning $10,000 and an investment mentoring from Kiwi kick starter firm Equitise as well as first place in New Zealand's 2015 Innovate Competition. Furthermore, while the Ogo runs at a top speed of 12mph, its lithium ion batteries stand to lose weight with future versions (as we've covered), meaning the Ogo could have even more room to improve the lives of those confined to a chair but unwilling to let that deter a healthy and active life.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

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