If you’re looking for an alternative to a standard wheelchair or mobility scooter, perhaps you could consider the following more up-to-date and technologically advanced mobility aids.
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, a German research company, has developed a four wheel drive wheelchair, to allow disabled and elderly people to tear up the countryside without continually getting wheels stuck. It looks like a versatile, all-terrain vehicle with large deep treaded tires, four wheel drive, and a roll bar for safety. The chair also has a GPS system, and technology which can monitor the driver’s pulse and blood oxygen, alerting the appropriate authorities if the user is in trouble. It allows disabled people access to terrains normally completely inaccessible.
But as we all know, the ultimate all terrain vehicle is a tank. When Mr. Soden’s wife was paralysed in a car accident, the ex-fire fighter from Phoenix, Arizona set about creating an all access mobility chair for her. Two years later he had developed the tank chair. With 42 inch rubber wheels and tracks, a one horsepower motor and a top speed of 5mph, the Tank chair powers through sand, mud, gravel and eats hills for breakfast. It weighs 300 pounds and is currently retailing for $15, 600 US.
There is also a faster, more lightweight version called the 2008 Speedster. This has thick, rugged tyres instead of tracks and is a lot smaller.
Alternatively, if you don’t want a one man tank but a smart chair, the iBOT wheelchair might be for you. According to the company who have manufactured the iBOT, wheelchair users often speak of longing to carry on eye-level conversations with people standing nearby, and be able to shop independently. No tank tracks, GPS or weaponry, but the iBOT does have four wheeled drive, and uses a combination of gyroscopes and sensors to help the user be able to climb stairs, and lift up to standing height. The iBOT will cost $29, 000 US.
Alternatively, Atsuo Takanshi at Waseda University in Tokyo has developed some rather fetching robot legs. It might sound reminiscent of Wallace & Gromit in The Wrong Trousers but these high tech gadgets are for real. Standing four feet tall, this people mover doubles as a stair lift in its own right.
Takanishi says it could take another five years before this robot is ready to serve the public. Until then, you’ve got a tank and a 4×4 to choose from!