Japan robotics experts unveil sci-fi wheelchair

Aug 26, 2009
The design allows users to slide more easily on and off the vehicle, lessening reliance on care-givers to lift them. Photo: AFP

Robotics and medical experts in Japan on Wednesday unveiled the prototype of a new hi-tech electric wheelchair that resembles a scooter and promises greater mobility.

Users ride astride the four-wheeled Rodem -- rather than sitting in it, as in a conventional wheelchair -- steer it with a joystick and hold onto motorbike-style handles while the knees and chest rest on cushions.

The design allows users to slide more easily on and off the vehicle, lessening reliance on care-givers to lift them, the inventors said.

"I believe this is a whole new idea for a ," said Makoto Hashizume, head of the Veda International Research and Development Centre and a medical professor of Kyushu University.

An "injured" model demonstrates the medical universal vehicle, "Rodem" during its press preview in Tokyo. Robotics and medical experts in Japan on Wednesday unveiled the prototype of a new hi-tech electric wheelchair that resembles a scooter and promises greater mobility.

"With this vehicle, users can move around more freely and more actively without much help from other people."

It is the first invention unveiled by the Veda centre, which opened in May in southwestern Munakata city and is a joint project of Japanese robot maker Tmsuk Co. and researchers from 10 universities and institutes.

The robotics and medical specialists, including from Germany and Italy, aim to invent robots for use in health and nursing, an area where high-tech , with its fast-greying population, is seen as a world leader.

The inventors said they had no immediate plans to commercialise the new vehicle, which would first have to meet government safety standards, but said they were open to offers from private companies in Japan and overseas.

Tmsuk president Yoichi Takamoto said the Rodem may also be used by people who are not disabled to simply ride and enjoy.

Takamoto said the Rodem was too simple to be called a robot, but added that it may evolve into one.

"We can add more robot-like functions in future," he said. "For example, we could add a new function so it comes to your bedside when you call."

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Robots and dinosaurs as Japan holds 'Niconico' offline gala

Related Stories

Cyborg-walkers stride toward Japan's robotics future

Aug 03, 2009

Three Japanese cyborg look-alikes turned heads on busy Tokyo streets and subway trains Monday as they made their way to a robotics conference on a hot summer's day -- without breaking a sweat.

Recommended for you

The potential for robots to perform human jobs

Apr 20, 2015

Here's a game to play over dinner. One person names a profession that they believe can't be taken over by a machine, and another person has to make a case why it's not so future-proof. We played this game ...

Developing a robotic therapist for children

Apr 20, 2015

In collaboration with other national institutions, researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) are designing a new therapeutic tool for motor rehabilitation for children. In this project, an interactive ...

Automating logistics for the factory of the future

Apr 20, 2015

Mass production and packaging in factories is already highly automated these days, but the same cannot be said for logistics. Movements of raw materials and finished products still depend heavily on manual ...

Japan robot receptionist welcomes shoppers

Apr 20, 2015

She can smile, she can sing and this robot receptionist who started work in Tokyo on Monday never gets bored of welcoming customers to her upmarket shop.

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

joekid
4 / 5 (1) Aug 26, 2009
Wheelchairs are for convenience. This one looks to be too large to have any. I've been in a chair for four years and know bigger is the same a clumsy and space wasting. If the Japanese or anyone else wants to improve the wheelchair, thing small. Find a way to decrease the footprint of the chair sticking out from under the rider. Power's nice but how many times can back out and in to an area will be fun while you're trying to get somewhere.
david_42
not rated yet Aug 26, 2009
Small is a seat mounted on a Segway. If you don't mind falling on your face occasionally.
Simonsez
2 / 5 (1) Aug 27, 2009
To be fair, that is a Japanese man in the photo. That would be a very tiny wheelchair to Americans according to everything I have learned from the internet!
piersdad
2 / 5 (1) Aug 28, 2009
at last they are breaking away from tradition with the batteries balancing the weight of the passenger

and leaving all sorts of variations to the rear to accomidate the different disabilities

the first real breakthrough in wheel chair design in 100 years

even a swiveling chair in the rear or a sortr of hoist assisted chair
COCO
not rated yet Aug 31, 2009
looks clumsy - no mention if robust either - looking to see more than pimped up scooters - like to see AWD with a real seat - baby boomer market still untapped - obese and rich

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.