Kyoto prof rolls out omnidirectional wheelchair

Mar 27, 2012 by Nancy Owano report
Image: Kyoto University

( -- A mechanical engineering professor has taken the wraps off his vehicle that is designed to become a next-generation wheelchair. As its formal name suggests, this is the Personal Mobile Vehicle, or Permoveh for short. Rolling it around at his lab in Kyoto, Japan, earlier this month, the professor carried out the demo before an audience of observers and photographers. They watched him ride the device, with its clever wheel-within-wheel system, which allowed the vehicle to move in any direction. The Permoveh has four same-sized wheels with 32 rollers each. They rotate in a perpendicular direction to the rim. The rollers sit inside the main wheels, allowing the vehicle to move in more directions than just back and forth.

The driver uses a hand control that can turn the chair in the desired direction. The driver just needs to tip the lever in the direction he or she wants to move. The wheels alone move if the driver wants to go backwards or forwards. The rollers move if the driver wants to go sideways. Both wheels and rollers move if the driver wants to go diagonally.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The device is supposed to be especially handy for use in tight spaces; the intention is to help users of electric wheelchairs maneuver their movements with greater freedom than they have in the past.

What is not such good news is that the on display cost $36,300 to produce, The research lead, Masaharu Komori, an associate professor of at Kyoto University, is well aware of the price shortcoming and plans to continue work on the chair to bring costs down, and make the chair lighter and more compact. The eventual target price is $12,000. Komori and team hope to commercialize the Permoveh in three to five years.

This Permoveh “rollout” comes at a time when Japan is showing much interest in bringing on improved assistive technology, from robots to motorized chairs, that can help the elderly. Among the innovations reported have been a bed that changes into an electric and a robot that can wash hair.

Whether or not this omnidirectional vehicle can eventually be a popular wheelchair of choice (the top speed is 3.7 mph) for the elderly remains to be seen, but it is being suggested that the Permoveh technology could be adapted for use in conveyor equipment in factories and warehouses.

One site notes the wheel technology is like that seen in Honda’s “U3-X” which also enables the rider to move backwards, forwards, and side to side using an omnidirectional wheel. Honda's description about how the wheel structure enables movement in all directions is that "multiple small-diameter motor-controlled wheels are connected in-line to form one large-diameter wheel. Rotating the large-diameter wheel moves the U3-X forward and backward, while rotating the small-diameter wheels moves it side-to-side. Combining these movements causes the U3-X to move diagonally."

Explore further: Index ranks Japan Asia's most efficient innovator (Update)

More information:… s6/2011/120322_1.htm (in Japanese)

Related Stories

Wheelchair transformer draws viewers at Tokyo show

Dec 14, 2011

( -- 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 ...

Rowheel wheelchair is pulled to move forward

Oct 08, 2010

( -- Wheelchairs have a basic problem because the occupant must push the wheels forward to turn the chair’s wheels, but this action is physically stressful on the anterior deltoid muscles ...

SIM-Drive Corp announces new 'in-wheel' electric car

Apr 01, 2011

( -- SIM-Drive Corporation, a Japanese consortium based in Kawasaki-shi and comprised of 34 companies and municipalities, has announced that it has developed a functioning electric car based on ...

Recommended for you

Google to test cars without a driver

47 minutes ago

Google plans to begin testing its new prototype of a self-driving car - which, unlike earlier models, doesn't require a back-up driver - at NASA's Ames Research Center, just a few miles from the tech company's ...

Self-driving cars now need a permit in California

2 hours ago

Computer-driven cars have been testing their skills on California roads for more than four years—but until now, the state's Department of Motor Vehicles wasn't sure just how many were rolling around.

Index ranks Japan Asia's most efficient innovator (Update)

Sep 12, 2014

A new index ranks Japan as the most efficient among Asian countries in turning the building blocks of creativity into tangible innovations that benefit their economies and people while Myanmar, Pakistan and Cambodia are least ...

Making travel quick, safe for cars, bikes, walkers

Sep 10, 2014

Cellphones that warn drivers when people are crossing in front of them. Bicycles and cars that communicate with traffic lights. Sensors in cars that quickly alert other drivers to black ice, potholes or other ...

Tech giants bet on 'smart home' revolution

Sep 10, 2014

It's long been the stuff of science fiction, but tech giants hope the "smart home", where gadgets talk to each other and the fridge orders the milk, will soon become reality.

User comments : 6

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (3) Mar 27, 2012
Not knocking the idea, but it seems to me that a mecanum wheel would be a lot simpler. http://en.wikiped...um_wheel
not rated yet Mar 27, 2012
Yeah, I had a similar impression. That's a *tonne* of little mechanical wheels that are prone to all kinds of issues from dirt and debris.

not rated yet Mar 27, 2012
Absolutely. Lets see that cart continue to work after it runs over some dog crap.
not rated yet Mar 27, 2012
If I were the nearest competitor, I'd make the most conventional-looking wheelchair but with 4 individually steerable regular wheels. Add to that a $5 microprocessor, and I'd have mobility, agility, ease of use, and long-term durability beyond anything those guys could even pretend to have.

As a reader, I am insulted by this kind of unabashed crap making it through the sieves of PhysOrg. Or is it actually that hard to get editors that aren't entirely clueless?

One would think that the curriculum of aspiring science editors would at least contain an overview of Rube Goldberg "inventions".
not rated yet Mar 27, 2012
..saw the same idea demonstrated on Tomorrow's World some 20 years or so ago.. except the rollers were aligned diagonally to the rim rather than fully circumferentially as here.

Evidently there wasn't much demand for it back then either...
1 / 5 (1) Mar 27, 2012
Who can afford a $12000 wheelchair? While there are a few cases of people that are disabled and also happen to have a lot of money, most of us don't and you can't even get SS disability to buy a much cheaper little 3 wheel scooter any more. No insurance company is going to want to pay for something like this. I hope he has a day job.