The traditional wheelchair has proven an invaluable tool in bringing mobility to millions upon millions of people, but they unfortunately do limit occupants to one position. The team behind the AbleChair seeks to open up some exciting possibilities with a powerful, versatile wheelchair that enables users to easily switch between a wide variety of positions through a companion smartphone app.
The AbleChair is kind of like a joystick-controlled motorized wheelchair that functions like a forklift, in that its users can stay seated as normal, but can also be hoisted into the air through a lift adjustment mechanism.
Driven by a mix of brushless motors, Arduino controllers and sensors, this allows them to remain in the seated position as low as ground level, or alternatively have the seat rise up and drop away to allow them to stretch their legs into a standing position, with armrests and an optional harness providing the support instead.
Taking things further still is the tilt function, which allows the user to adjust the angle of the seat to differing degrees, ranging from a gentle recline to a full horizontal position. This, like the lifting mechanism, is controlled by smartphone app, which allows users to save their favored seating positions as programmed presets.
The upshot of all this is a powered wheelchair that enables users to shift their position throughout the day, which not only promises far greater independence but can help avoid a range of adverse health effects.
It could be rising high to grab something from an overhead cupboard in the kitchen, holding a conversation at eye level or lowering themselves to the floor to have a lie down or play with a toddler. On the health side of things, avoiding ulcers, stretching muscles, improving bone density by shifting positions, increased blood circulation and improved posture are just some of the positive outcomes the AbleChair could bring users.
Another capability of the AbleChair is its potential as a rehabilitation tool for gait therapy. Together with the armrests and optional harness, the seat offers controlled weight bearing so patients can ease into things at just the right place. And because it can tilt backwards to the lying position, it allows the user to easily put their feet up as needed.
The AbleChair can power along at up to 4 mph (6.4 km/h) and cover 15 to 20 mi (24 to 32 km) on each charge of its twin 12 V batteries. Its makers have turned to Kickstarter to get it into production and have almost reached their US$20,000 goal at the time of writing. Early pledges of $7,995 will have an AbleChair headed your way when shipping kicks off in October if the campaign runs as planned.
You can check out the team's pitch video below.
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