Wheelchair transformer draws viewers at Tokyo show

Dec 14, 2011 by Nancy Owano weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- A novel attachment that is designed for an ordinary wheelchair can turn the chair into a “power-coaster” with electric drive. The transformed manual wheelchair into an electric wheelchair is the result of technology from a Japanese company called WHILL, which is also the name of the technology.

The transformable /electric wheelchair was on view at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show.

The WHILL attachment, which Gizmodo describes as looking like a monstrous set of headphones, provides two circular hubs that go on the outside center of the chair’s wheels. The user can steer the wheelchair by leaning in the direction that the user wants to travel. The hub is powered by a lithium-ion battery. The battery helps the chair wheels turn and move. Charging time of the battery is two hours under normal working circumstances, according to the report. The battery is good for about 19 miles before requiring a two-hour charge. The rotation speed of the wheels can be adjusted, via a mechanism that can vary the speed. The WHILL can provide a top speed of just over 12 mph.

The developers of the device said they intend to move the prototype into field testing and now seek wheelchair users to participate in the tests. They say the feedback will help them design a product suitable for commercial production. In this nascent sate, no pricing information is available.

Motor shows are generally the venue for much publicized dazzlers in futuristic speedsters, powerful trucks and buses. Vehicles providing assistive technologies for the handicapped, however, are considered as having important market potential due to population trends in aging and other factors. WHILL is in its own way a sign of the times. The interest in wheelchairs that can deliver greater flexibility and more independent lifestyles is expected to grow. Whill’s motto displayed on its web page, is “New Mobile Partner, WHILL Will Expand Your Horizons.”


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More information: whill.jp/index.html

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User comments : 6

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Nik_2213
not rated yet Dec 14, 2011
Ah, the 'electric bicycle' treatment !
I'm concerned about the extra width, though...
socean
not rated yet Dec 14, 2011
Add a super-wifi wireless access point to the rig with optional antennae. Wheelchair operators could form a wireless mesh for everyone while providing great communications options for themselves.

Add docking/networking for smartphones, pads, HUDs,cameras, etc.

Electro-pimp that ride!
jrsm
not rated yet Dec 14, 2011
With that in place, you have to take the unit apart to get someone in and out of the unit. There may be merit in connecting it behind the chair with a console in the front so that a person with mobility problems can get in and out of the chair without requiring four strong men and a boy....
Pirouette
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 14, 2011
With a 19 mile distance capacity and a two hour recharge, it might be helpful if they could include a solar powered battery that also plugs into the grid. . .a dual energy source, especially if an electrical outlet is not immediately available. I would hate to get stuck in that device with no one around to help me out of it if I ever get to that point of needing a wheelchair.
Hopefully, the battery will be sans mercury. In another thread, the article mentions that old batteries are some of the problem of mercury emissions into the atmosphere.
If they cut the console in the middle so that it can be folded upwards and to the sides, it would be easier for the rider to get in and out, IMHO. But the pictures seem to show a one-piece unit; they would have to redesign the unit to allow the rider easy exit.
trekgeek1
1 / 5 (1) Dec 14, 2011
The only wheelchair that can put you in one.
MarkyMark
not rated yet Dec 15, 2011
Seems like a good idea, i know i would like one too with some alterations to its design such as solar cells and getting rid of the front bar thing that makes getting in and out awkward!!!