Technology

Students Have Developed An Electirc Wheelchair That Can Climb Stairs

October 20, 2015 | by Tom Hale

Photo credit: Screenshot of Scalevo/YouTube

The idea started as a final-year student project, but it could end up changing the lives of countless disabled people around the world.

Scalevo is like a hybrid of a wheelchair and a Segway. It’s a two-wheeled wheelchair that has the ability to climb stairs. Using gyroscopic technology, similar to a Segway in “balance mode,” the design makes it easy to rotate on the spot and quickly change direction. On flat ground, the wheelchair can move at about 10 kilometers per hour (6.2 mph).

However, the most impressive feature of the Scalevo chair is its ability to ascend and descend stairs with a slope between 17 to 34 degrees. To execute this, it drops two treaded tracks and climbs backwards up the stairs, while keeping the user upright at all times. Although not shown in the demonstration video, it can mount one stair per second. The wheelchair even has the ability to scale spiral staircases.

It was developed by 10 students from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and the Zurich University of the Arts. The group is a mixture of engineers and industrial designers under the directorship of Dr. Roland Siegwart and Dr. Roland Haas.

Miro Voellmy, a mechanical engineering student at ETH Zurich, told Reuters, “The great thing is that everything on this wheelchair is automated. If I want to climb the stairs I can just drive up to them, turn around, press one button and all I have to do is control the velocity I want to drive at. The alignment on the stairs, the leveling of the wheelchair driver, is automated and he can control it, he can view the back with a back facing camera, and have a full, safe, driving experience.”

This isn’t the first technology of this kind. Johnson & Johnson created a stair-scaling wheelchair called iBot. However, it was of little success and discontinued in 2009 after complaints it was too pricey.

Unfortunately, the Scalevo wheelchair is not yet commercially available. However, the group of students who designed it are thinking about starting a Kickstarter campaign to make this prototype available for everyone.

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