Good Thinking

Stylish stair-climbing wheelchair merges the Segway with a tank

Stylish stair-climbing wheelch...
The Scewo is a latest, and most stylish, iteration of a stair climbing wheelchair from a team of Zurich-based designers
The Scewo is a latest, and most stylish, iteration of a stair climbing wheelchair from a team of Zurich-based designers
View 7 Images
The Elevated Mode allows the rider to be raised up for eye-level communication with others
1/7
The Elevated Mode allows the rider to be raised up for eye-level communication with others
The Scewo is still in prototype development but the team hope to have a commercially available model ready to go later in 2018
2/7
The Scewo is still in prototype development but the team hope to have a commercially available model ready to go later in 2018
The Scewo rides up and down stairs with ease
3/7
The Scewo rides up and down stairs with ease
On level ground the Scewo moves on two self-balancing wheels
4/7
On level ground the Scewo moves on two self-balancing wheels
5/7
Riders comfortably face forwards when traveling both up and down stairs
6/7
Riders comfortably face forwards when traveling both up and down stairs
The Scewo is a latest, and most stylish, iteration of a stair climbing wheelchair from a team of Zurich-based designers
7/7
The Scewo is a latest, and most stylish, iteration of a stair climbing wheelchair from a team of Zurich-based designers

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.

The Scewo is still in prototype development but the team hope to have a commercially available model ready to go later in 2018
The Scewo is still in prototype development but the team hope to have a commercially available model ready to go later in 2018

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.

Riders comfortably face forwards when traveling both up and down stairs
Riders comfortably face forwards when traveling both up and down stairs

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.

Source: Scewo

Scewo - wheelchair mobility of tomorrow

7 comments
Techtwit
Why travel up stairs backwards, without sight of where you are going? Potential to crush vulnerable people, such as toddlers. I imagine the treads would rapidly wear away the edges of concrete and wooden stairs, the most vulnerable part of each tread, to eventually produce a corrugated ramp. On a carpeted staircase thee is the potential foe the treads to pull the carpetng away from it's fixings and dumping chair and occupant in an unholy mess at the bottom of the staircase. A kernel of a good idea, but much more thought needed, before commencing the required work. Need to place the load flat on each tread for safety.
Bob Flint
Expected cost?
Kpar
I had similar concerns re: going up stairs backwards. I am afraid this design will not catch on, unless the builders make the track extend forward and backward to enable CG control to allow the driver to face the direction of travel.
Thomas Boles
Any article involving technological development should also convey some sense of context. Where does the new widget fit in a developmental sense? What has come before, why is the new thing better? Secondly, an article that mentions the Segway-like balancing system is truly missing the mark by not mentioning Dean Kamen and the I-Bot, his design for a stair climbing wheelchair. The story is not all rosy: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/30929301/ns/health-health_care/t/stair-climbing-wheelchair-comes-halt/#.WNvpuYWcGzw and hints at a major problem in the US when it comes to bringing advanced medical devices to market: Who will pay for it? The article and the device are pretty cool otherwise and an excellent student project. To be excellent though, perspective and context are critical.
Milton
Which way a user faces while going up stairs probably isn't as big of a concern as we are thinking it is. Electronic sensors, and the fact that you are in a freakin' wheelchair are likely enough to prevent you from running into someone. I do agree that the tread will only work on some stairs, but not all. I just don't understand the name. They got way to conceptual with it, and now I just read it as: Screwo.
guzmanchinky
Amazing tech. I would be glad this is out there if I needed it.
ljaques
This is a very cool idea. I see why they climb backwards because of the weight distribution. (It would tip over if you leaned back to climb forward.) I think it might lead to some deaths, though, (it has treads, so I'm in a tank which can go anywhere!) when people got somewhere and it started raining, then they tried to descend wet (or now icy?) steps and it slid. Or they didn't pay attention when ascending backwards and ran off the side of a stair. Other than insurance, I think the price point and battery life are going to be the main problems prior to rollout.