For several years designers have been playing around with lots of different engineering tricks to give wheelchairs the ability to move up and down stairs. We've seen many innovative designs, from the nifty Chiba wheelchair that utilizes a clever leg-like four-wheel system to navigate steps, to the B-Free Chair that uses articulated tank-like pedrails to traverse staircases.
A team in Zurich has been working on a clever modular system that incorporates the best of both worlds. The original prototype launched in 2015 was labeled the Scalevo. It used two big wheels with a Segway-styled balancing system to navigate flat ground, and dropped a set of rubber tracks when navigating stairs.
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The second-generation of the design, dubbed the Scewo, shows a more refined wheelchair as the team moves towards a commercially available product. The Scewo is certainly be sleekest looking stair-climbing wheelchair we have come across, with a futuristic sheen reminiscent of something Professor Xavier in the X-Men would cruise around in.
The Scewo switches to Stair Mode at the push of a button, lowering a set of grippy rubber tracks that the designers say can swiftly transport the user up or down most staircases.
The wheelchair also incorporates an Elevated Mode, which raises the chair to offer eye-to-eye communication or access to higher objects. The climbing tracks can also be lowered to increase traction when navigating slippery surfaces like snow or loose gravel.
Unfortunately the chair is still a year or two away from reaching the market. The team behind the design – a group of Masters students based in Zurich – is currently raising funds to refine the development of the next prototype and aim to have a commercial version of the wheelchair ready to go by the end of 2018.
Check out the Scewo in action in the video below.