Wheelchairs nowadays are continuously redesigned and transformed into something better and more useful. And another team of researchers have invested their time, effort, and knowledge into developing a new wheelchair that grants its user the ability to go in all directions, thanks to its four-wheel drive design.
Masaharu Komori, mechanical engineering associate professor at Kyoto University, led a team of Japanese scientists in the development of a four-wheel drive wheelchair known as the Permoveh or Personal Mobility Vehicle. The team remarkably reinvented the mobility device into something that will be considered the next-generation wheelchair.
The Permoveh is built with four identical wheels. Each wheel has 32 built-in rollers. The rollers are capable of rotating in a direction perpendicular to the rim of the wheels. A hand-held controller is used to maneuver the wheelchair.
When the user wants to move forward or backward, it’s the four wheels alone that roll to either direction; if the user desires to go sideways, it’s the rollers that take the vehicle to either the left or right side. And when the user wishes to move in a diagonal direction, both the wheels and rollers move to accomplish the command. The wheels and the rollers grant the mobility device an omnidirectional capability.
Aside from moving to all directions, the high tech 4WD wheelchair is also designed to move in very constricted spaces with ease. The wheels and rollers function in an impressive way allowing the users to navigate the vehicle easily as it travels in a cramped or confined area.
Unfortunately, the 4WD wheelchair cannot be released in the market anytime this year since each vehicle needs at least 3 million yen or an equivalent of $36,300 to produce. The prototype also needs some improvements on its speed. At the moment, the Permoveh has a top speed of just 3.7 meters per hour, which is a bit slower compared to a standard wheelchair.
Komori and his team are still making adjustments to improve the speed as well as other features. They are also planning to make the wheelchair more compact and lighter while aiming to bring the costs down by about two-thirds. The team hopes that the chair will be commercialized by the next three to five years.
Though it would still take a few years to have a try on the wheelchair, the thought of having another equipment developed for helping wheelchair users is exciting. With this promising technology, theres yet another opportunity for freedom and it is something to look forward to.