Urban Transport

Self-balancing wheelchair goes hands-free

Self-balancing wheelchair goes hands-free
Ogo is a hands-free wheelchair
Ogo is a hands-free wheelchair
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Ogo is a hands-free wheelchair
Ogo is a hands-free wheelchair
Five Ogo prototypes will be developed
Five Ogo prototypes will be developed

A New Zealand designer is revamping the traditional wheelchair design with a new model that frees the arms of the user. Instead of using the hands to create movement, the user moves their upper body to direct the two wheels. Kevin Halsall was inspired to develop Ogo after noticing a friend's difficulties with a traditional wheelchair, and deciding that things could be better.

Halsall has been experimenting with various designs for a few years now, and has arrived at Ogo with its control system based on a moving seat. If the rider leans forward, the chair moves forward. When they lean back, the wheelchair reverses. To switch direction, they can lean to the side - if moving up a flight of stairs is a priority, the Topchair-S may be the answer.

Besides being dynamic and user-friendly, the designer says that Ogo stimulates upper body mobility and increases core muscle strength because the body becomes part of the machine, which, in its turn, almost becomes an extension of the user's body.

The rider also has the option to operate the wheelchair in a different way, though, as Ogo features a thumb-controlled joystick that can be installed on either side.

Five Ogo prototypes will be developed
Five Ogo prototypes will be developed

Halsall is now fundraising on Indiegogo to develop five prototypes to cater for the more specific needs of varying levels of disability. He concluded he should create several models while testing the initial design with help from paraplegics, quadriplegics, quad amputees and others. He says response has been invariably positive, but the Ogo design so far has been for people with lower-level spinal injuries only.

The five prototypes will feature push-button controls to start up and power down the machine, and also shut it down automatically if the rider gets off the seat, the design of which will also be improved. The prototypes will be available for testing across New Zealand's main cities.

A pledge of US$1,000 will get supporters an Ogo of their own, with delivery estimated for September 2017 if all goes according to plan.

The video below shows Halsall talking about Ogo and why he is fundraising for the prototypes.

Sources: Ogo, Indiegogo

Not good. If you get thrown forward the wheelchair goes more forward. A recipe for a disaster for example at a curb near traffic. Very dangerous idea.
Keith Reeder
Sigh... There's always one, isn't there? Vincent, do you SERIOUSLY think that situations like the one you describe won't have been among the VERY FIRST things the designers checked for?
Hey @VincentWolf - actually, that's part of the uniqueness of this chair. It has another patented technology on top of the Segway technology to avoid exactly that - it's very easy to use and is entirely under your control the whole time. There is also a joystick option for finer movement, as well as safety features to ensure the chair stops if a rider is thrown off for some reason.
Oun Kwon
Looking forward not to come to use it ;-) but when I need one, this is the one to look for. How difficult to maneuver uphill?
Paul Anthony
I am not disabled and I want one! Can't say that for a regular wheel chair so that in itself has to be worth something.
Stephen N Russell
Mass produce & add safety brake for movement when needed. Test in VA & Kaiser Pwerm chains in the US
How long before they get sued by Segway and get the whole development of the wheelchair for free?
As a wheelchair user myself, this idea seems interesting. However, I'm not convinced of its practical usage if ever it gets rolled out to consumers...pun intended. For those of us with balancing issues in our upper body, combined with our lower bodies being completely paralyzed, making balancing that much harder, how will this benefit? For me, I topple very easily..especially as I am aging. I see a lot of falling down taking place in its many trials. If one has to use the other gadgets to maneuver, in order to avoid this, how is this design any better than what is currently available on the market already? Either way, Kudos if it's successful. Kudos for the effort if it's not. If it's not...keep trying.