September 7th, 2012
With the Paralympic Games showcasing what people with disabilities can do, we wanted to look at design concepts and prototypes that may be a future reality for individuals with limited mobility. Industrial designers come up with all kinds of wheelchair design concepts — some seem spectacular, while others seem... spectacularly bizarre and impractical even if they are aesthetically pleasing. Most concept wheelchairs never make it to market, even if they do manage to receive some sort of funding. We wanted to showcase all kinds of wheelchairs, even if we disagreed with them and wondered if the designers bothered to consult people who use wheelchairs every day, all day. Others wheelchairs seem so wonderful that we want to see them become a reality... more than that, an affordable reality since wheelchairs can cost more than some people’s cars., whose website this is, happens to have Spina Bifida, so we have a lot of experience dealing with wheelchairs and the dreaded insurance to have them, or repairs to them, approved. Please don’t take offense at any of the designers’ descriptions or word choices. We do not want to stifle creative innovation, because you never know what some designer may come up with in the future. [35 Photo (or montages) and 1 video]
Artist Sue Austin flies through the water in a self-propelled underwater wheelchair. The prototype wheelchair enables Sue to go on a gentle, dreamlike exploration of an exotic underwater world. This impressed us so much, we wanted to do a post on wheelchair prototypes and design concepts.
Segway requires standing, but Segway and GM launched the P.U.M.A. (Personal Urban Mobility & Accessibility) prototype for the future of transportation needs — including people otherwise confined to a wheelchair. The PUMA is efficient, powered by lithium batteries. It has two self-balancing in-wheel electric motors which are controlled by gyroscopes, as well as a fly-by-wire system. PUMA can cover 35 miles on one charge, but it is expected the range will extend to 50 miles or more in the future. The PUMA has a digital network that can pull up and read information on nearby parking spaces, charge points, and coffee shops. It also has vehicle-to-vehicle communications capabilities by connecting a smartphone or other smart device to the PUMA.
Designers Julia Kaisinger, Mathias Mayrhofer and Benesch Xiulian worked together to create the CARRIER Wheelchair to insure the user is completely independent and capable of traveling over any terrain and in any situation. The “Galileo Wheel” adds climbing traction to climb the stairs. The standing position allows the user to be at eye level of other people as well as adding the ability to reach things that previously could not reached from a seated position. Another design element would eliminate the need to physically transfer to a toilet seat. The design concept was turned into a wheelchair prototype by the designers for a University of Applied Arts project in the Studio Industrial Design 2 Esslinger (Vienna).
WISB handbike concept designed by Bär Claudia combines adaptive and recumbent bike styles. Created to be used both inside and outside, while also functioning as a sports bike, users can toggle between ‘high mode’ for indoors or normal outdoors riding, or use ‘low mode’ for long distance or cross-country rides.
Mauricio Maeda says he’s not a professional designer, but we loved this uber cool, geeky, gamer, fun design concept wheelchair. “In my humble opinion, design should not be just about making beautiful things, but to improve people’s lives and serve a purpose as well. I decided to model a wheelchair because I hardly ever could find one that presented a little more comfort and some additional features (at least here in Japan! ). I’ve put a portable computer case under the seat, a joystick (to move the wheelchair), a trackball, a monitor, a keyboard, speakers, a wireless headset, a webcam, a drink holder, a stereo sound gadget (behind the seat), a power source on the back and a remote control. Some other features could be added, but I didn’t want to turn it into a Christmas tree…So… that’s it…”
HEROes Series of Sport Wheelchairs by designer Jairo da Costa Junior. If you’ve ever tried to wheel or push a regular wheelchair on a sandy beech, then you know it’s virtually impossible. Each of these wheelchair can navigate on beaches and can be used for beach volleyball or other sports. HERO Zupan was inspired by, a quadriplegic who was also captain of the United States wheelchair rugby team, so it’s built to allow for beach rugby. HERO Daredevil was inspired by Marvel Comics’ fictional superhero. HERO Xavier was inspired by fictional superhero and leader of the X-Men aka Professor X.
This is a yes you can wheelchair! It’s no longer a wheelchair design concept, but a working reality for fun. Mountain Trike, the all terrain wheelchair company, says we love the outdoors! “The Mountain Trike offers riders the freedom to venture out around town or into the countryside. Whether that is to the beach, down muddy tracks, over grass or along cobbled streets, gravel driveways and even through snow. We call this All-Terrain.” This wonderfully innovate wheelchair won the Peterborough Mobility Roadshow 2011 Able Magazine Awards. (AngelBear wants one!)
Ultra Long Distance Wheelchair by designer Andrew Mitchell. After studying how psychological performance can be gained from having equipment that looks like it is meant for performance, this wheelchair design concept was envisioned for ultra long distance use. The positioning of the rider is meant to ensure maximum efficiency. “By keeping the shoulders over the front edge of the driving wheels, the whole body position can be engaged by the rider to provide maximum power. The body and legs are in a more open position, giving good breathing potential, and placing less strain on the lower limbs.” Photos #8 by © Andrew Mitchell
The Leeding E.D.G.E. stand up wheelchair by designer Tim Leeding is an innovative, fresh, manual standing wheelchair. It features easy drive handles with different gearing options to promote accessibility while also combating shoulder injury that can be caused by traditional wheeling techniques. The wheelchair handles can also be used to elevate the user in seconds, alleviating pressure sores, increasing reach capabilities and “closing social boundaries which inhibit the lives of the disabled day to day.”
On the left is RoTrike by ROTA Mobility; it is a human-powered scooter that is rowed by pushing and pulling on a central lever. On the right is the RoChair by ROTA Mobility; it is a wheelchair that is propelled by rowing, by pushing and pulling on a central lever.
The Tandem: “Designing for Social Stigma” by designer Alexandre Pain. He spent an extended amount of time in a wheelchair in order to better understand the challenges of people with disabilities. He found that the most difficult aspect was not limited mobility, but the stigma associated with the easily identifiable wheelchair. This Tandem scooter comes with an additional seating for one in the back and the electric vehicle aims to reduce the negative perception of disability by erasing the taboo of the wheelchair.
Wheelchairs are expensive — period. Power wheelchairs can cost more than some fancy cars. The NEWS (New Electric Wheelchairs) by designer Ju Hyun Lee is designed to attach to any standard wheelchair to give it instant motorized power.
TEK Robotic Mobilization Device “is the world’s smallest motorized standing movement device. It is only 36 cm wide and 62 cm long. With these dimensions it covers only one third of the space of a small wheelchair. This way users can pass through many narrow spaces which they cannot pass through with a wheelchair of an average width of 60 cm.” Users mount from the back. says “paraplegic people must stay in a standing position for approximately one hour everyday. This exercise is of vital importance for preserving the body’s health. Standing wheelchair-like devices that can move while standing up, usually cannot lift their users to a fully upright position. HKAFO (long leg braces) like walking aids can only be used with canes or walkers. This device holds the user in an upright position while leaving his hands free.”
Velo Modular Handcycle by designer is aimed at users who want to participate in sports, but who cannot afford a specialized chair just for playing sports. It is meant to be cost effective because it works with any manual wheelchair.
CTC 41 (Cradle to Cradle) Wheelchair Concept by industrial designer Douglas Papuga. The honeycomb pattern of this manual wheelchair is extremely strong yet lightweight, precisely as modern Target-like shopping carts are. The CTC 41 folds up like other collapsible chairs, but the cost is low and it’s recycled material which is good for our environment. He put lots of thought into his design concept, interviewed people who use wheelchairs, and tried to work around some issues such as how hands get dirty while wheeling. The final concept includes personalization in wheel colors, frame colors and even a special edition clear wheelchair.
Designer Wai Lam Wong came up with these two wheelchair design concepts: the Big Foot Wheelchair and the LIME Cycle. Innovation and creation of wheelchair designs are a good thing, so tearing apart someone’s idea would be unwise. Yet we’re not sure how practical either of these would be. The Big Foot Wheelchair has a “pair of hollow cartoon-like legs, making it somewhat humorous and comical” and is meant to give the chair “more personality.” On the left is the LIME Cycle: “The green transport is meant for commuters with walking disabilities (amputees). The concept is to have a basic wheelchair used for indoor or short distance movement & with the help of a front attachment, be able to travel as a handcycle to medium distances.” &
Catapult by Tom Robbins Design was one of 20 international finalists in the. This lever drive wheelchair is a prototype that uses both the upward and downward motion of the levers to move the chair forward. The brake is on the right handle and the gear shift is attached to the left handle. The steering for the wheelchair is controlled via the user’s feet offering “people with physical disabilities the opportunity to play sports and fighting attitude to a static and sedentary life that forces them to stay in the same position for many hours during the day.” As the mom of someone who uses a wheelchair daily for mobility, I can’t quite comprehend this design since it requires steering to be done by legs/feet. Until you deal with a wheelchair on a regular basis, perhaps it’s difficult to wrap your head around designing one? Or perhaps it’s for people who still have the ability to use their legs? There’s a version of this wheelchair that is steered only with the arms, but we couldn’t find any images of it.
Permobil X850 Corpus All-Terrain Power Wheelchair has a powerful engine and is designed for cross-country use in all weather, including making it through floods. X850 performed great on all terrain and can take you off the beaten track. It also has ESP (Electronic Steering System) car technology. The bad news: it is so big that it could cause trouble on public transport... and the cost is about ,000.
The design team of Adam Wood, Geoff Samuel, Mike Lambert, Lee Birkett and Josefina Chaves-Posse at Haywire Engineer Designs created the Zenith Wheelchair. It is a manually powered chair with stairs-climbing capabilities.
Wheel by day and store the power to make the wheels glow brightly at night. Designers Mingoo Kim, Yunjin Chang, and Sueun Park created a concept wheelchair for the “Roll Charge Light Protect” Project. Magnets help generate electricity by rotating and sending the “electricity” through a coil to LEDs under the wheel covers. A readout panel shows the remaining amount of electricity and how long the user’s wheels can glow for safety at night.
The Comb Multifolding Wheelchair by Rudolf Mihu is meant to be fully adjustable and functional. If you don’t live in a city, then there might not be public accessible transportation. Some wheelchairs don’t break down well to fit into economy or sports cars. This concept wheelchair can be adjusted for the user’s comfort, needs, and even folded down to a tiny compact size that would fit any small vehicle for transportation.
Mobi electric folding wheelchair by designer Jack Martinich is a compact electric wheelchair concept that can fold into itself within the diameter of its wheels. It’s made of lightweight materials and functions as a manual wheelchair, yet at the base of the wheels there is a battery-powered mechanism to help move the wheels forward or backward. With only two hubless wheels, you may wonder if there is a risk of tipping forward or backward. Gyroscope technology like is in the Segway, keeps the two-wheeled chair balanced.
Solo is a unique new wheelchair combining the advantages of manual and electrical wheelchairs. With an electrical assist system, Solo increases the range and mobility of a manual wheelchair while providing premium ergonomics and compact foldability. Heavily focused on aesthetics, Solo avoids the medical look and feel often associated with electrical wheelchairs and provides an unique new experience for wheelchair users. When pushing uphill, Solo assists you and reduce the resistant. If you stop, Solo automatically brakes to avoid rolling backwards. When you go downhill, Solo recharge the batteries via its KERS (Kinetic energy recovery system) motor.
Nimbl concept wheelchair by designer Lawrence Kwok. Home rennovations to make doorways, restrooms and kitchens accessible and wheelchair-friendly can cost a fortune. Nimbl was designed specifically for domestic/indoor use to give increased access without sacrificing mobility inside a house. It features “a carbon fiber tub which houses the 10″ lift actuator, motorized hubless wheels and interchangeable battery. The wheelchair also integrates a magnetically placed armrest remote that allows both right- and left-handed control. Designed in collaboration with Tino Sacino, Danna Lei and Alison Ochoa, the wheelchair comes with short wheelbase to increase the maneuverability within the home. Users can rotate the armrests and footrest for easy transfers, while the customizable modular cushion system assures various levels of mobility as well as rehabilitation. Moreover, the Nimble comes with the ability to recline for pressure relief.”
Buen Rumbo wheelchair concept by designer Diana Amaya. She explained, “Buen rumbo is a project I developed at my senior year of college. It is designed for children between 5 and 12 whose requirements in aesthetics are far different from a regular paraplegic adult. Based on a electric motor developed by Victor Gerardo, it provides an alternative for a younger market.”
Designer David Pompa wanted to dress up wheelchairs and inclusive interior design. While it might make people stop and think, these pretty yet impractical design concept wheelchairs could never be functional.
Elevating electric wheelchair by designer Jake Eadie. These wheelchair concepts were designed to be adjustable in 2 modes, sitting and standing. They “challenge able-bodied people’s perceptions of wheelchair users.”
Electric elevating wheelchair design concept by industrial designer Ivo Tanchev.
Greathouse Labs Wheelchairs & Mobility Devices. “If you have to be in a chair, you should be in a really cool chair. Inspired by his brother’s battle with Parkinson’s disease, Lance Greathouse is determined to help people with physical disabilities continue to pursue their interests and dreams. Whether for work or play, Greathouse Labs can design and build a custom wheelchair to fit your lifestyle. We can even trick out your current chair with accessories that let your personality shine through.”
For the wheelchair and mobility scooter owner who wants to spice things up, has a need for speed, here are two design concepts by Allegro Medical. The 0-300 mph in 4.2 seconds concept wheelchair “combines today’s advances in jet propulsion with modern wheelchair design to make a practical, general-purpose sub-sonic everyday chair. The wheelchair finally meets the jet age in this aggressively styled, ‘weekend warrior-type’ chair. Perfectly at home in the Bonneville Salt Flats doing 400mph or cruising to the market, the Jet Chair offers something for everyone….The deal crafted with the State Department allows for limited production of the jet powered wheelchair as a recreational use personal transportation device. The stripped down civilian version of the craft is notably missing rocket launchers and heat-seeking missiles….EPA Economy:.0002 /.000012 mpg Highway/City.” Or drop over a million bucks for the design concept.
Personal Mobility Whill. “Not everyone can afford an electric wheelchair, so WHILL was created to bring a cheaper alternative. The WHILL is an add-on component to the wheelchair that provides temporary electric drive. The two hubs have a lithium-ion battery powered 24-volt motor that brings a range of 30 kilometers and a top speed of 20 km/h (12.5 mph). Each one takes about two hours to charge in order for it to be fully functional. The band that connects the hubs is a steering device that works by having the individual lean into the direction they wish to go, so it’s similar to a Segway. With the prototype already made up, WHILL is currently looking for users to test out the product.”
The Tank Chair by TC Mobility: “Tank Chair is a custom off-road wheelchair that can go anywhere outdoors. TankChair conquers streams, mud, snow, sand, and gravel, allowing you to get back to nature. Using rubber tracks and high-torque electric motors, Tank Chair will take you anywhere and back.”
Electric Independent Wheelchair Assistant by designer Oscar Fernandez. His grandfather has been in a wheelchair since the age of 20, so Fernandez was inspired to create the electric Independent Wheelchair Assistant to act as an assistant and eliminate the need to constantly transfer between other devices like scooters or power chairs. It has simple user controls and a headlight to ensure safety at night or in bad weather.
Cursum – Stroller for wheelchair users by designer Cindy Sjöblom. “Parenting in the first stages of infancy can be incredibly challenging – add a mobile disability to the equation and you can imagine how daunting it might seem. The Cursum stroller concept aims to make life a little easier by adapting to use in tandem with a wheelchair. Swivel wheels, complete height adjustment, attention to comfort and visibility and advanced safety features give parents added security and a little independence to an already challenging life experience.” The designer also made a for this stroller.
EAZ Disabled Mobility Device concept by designer Grayson Stopp. “The EAZ is a revolutionary product for the disabled mobility market, with the potential to revolutionise mobility for people with moderate disabilities who find it difficult getting around. These users include; the injured and operation recoverers, to the frail, old aged, and the slightly disabled (sufferers of MS [multiple sclerosis], Arthritis, or COPD [Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary designs Disease]). The EAZ is a multi-functional mobility device, aimed at filling the void between walkers and wheelchairs. The stylish self balancing two-wheeled device is capable of operation in either a seated and standing configuration. It’s currently in the conceptual and pre-production planning stages.”
During the the London Paralympic Games, we came across this video of Sue Austin ‘Finding Freedom.’ Watch her underwater acrobatics from her prototype wheelchair. We’d never seen anything like it and we loved it!
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