Futuristic Wheel Chair – Hi-tech mobility for the disabled
Designer Thomas Ross & Dave Cochrane’s ‘Futuristic Wheel Chair’ concept is indented to create mobility system using best of current technology available to improve the quality of life for individuals who are unable to walk (either at all or without assistance) but who had viable and varied use of their upper body. The concept was designed after considering some specific problems. First of all, wheelchair users often rely on slinging a backpack or similar over the back of their chair. Therefore, a more elegant cargo solution for a personal mobility system, a teardrop extrusion on the back of the product, was incorporated. Secondly, issue of pressure sores was a major aspect for the designers and therefore they opted to simulate the inclusion of Herman Miller’s superb Aeron chair fabric, Pellicle. This mixed technology fabric spreads bodyweight extremely evenly and should, in theory, allow more comfortable long term use without negative impact to the user’s circulation and skin health.
Other than this, wheelchairs can be awkward to use in a domestic context without what can amount to considerable redesign of the domicile. To this end, the designers opted for a rear ball assembly that would allow an almost zero footprint turning circle, allowing the user to continue to live in their home without undue disruption. To support movement on a variety of gradients, an oleo based suspension unit was modeled. These units connect to the main drive and power pack under the frame of the seat. However, it would have made this concept more able if the Segway balance mechanism was used, but that would have made the licensing costs and purchase price of the device too far out of the price range of many people.
For those users who wish to control their wheelchair without sacrificing the use of one or both hands, a control system were opted, which is already available and based on apple’s iPhone. If the user has an iPhone 3GS, voice control of wheelchair functions will be possible, as will telephony and the internet (convenient in transit to establish whether the destination has appropriate access/facilities and to call them if required). The iPhone system would be mounted on a suction cup or mount attached to a flexible goose-neck device. Use of rimless wheels ensured the ease of changing of wheels with tire treads suited to various conditions, and because the spoke model makes it easy for items to be trapped while the wheel rotates.
Designer Thomas Ross & Dave Cochrane