For wheelchair users, getting around even the most accessible, adapted landscape can present some formidable obstacles. The vast majority of us live in far less adapted places – regular cities and towns, with their pot-holes, broken sidewalks, crumbling or non-existent curb cuts and venues that are only accessible by climbing steps. Like some weird creation out of a science fiction movie comes a robotic wheelchair that can climb stairs and navigate almost any obstacle with wheels that turn into legs.
According to a report in The Mail Online, (watch the videos!) the machine, looking eerily spider-like, rolls like a regular power chair, but with an array of on-board sensors it can adapt it’s wheels into legs that climb much like a human would up steps and even through ditches. The creation of The Chiba Institute of Technology in Narashino, China, the prototype is controlled by a joy-stick but the robot-brain automatically assesses the terrain and moves appropriately, keeping the seat and user level.
The current prototype is industrial and ungainly, but the inventors hope to field test the machine with a wide variety of users to refine its design, and bring it into commercial production. For now, it is a unique solution to what is an all-too common problem for the disabled.