Supple - the wheel chair becomes the sphere-chair
By Paul Ridden
April 21, 2011
Despite not becoming the personal transport revolution that it was designed to be, the Segway has provided a wealth of design fodder for numerous self-balancing concepts, prototypes and production single occupancy vehicles. Mohamad Sadegh Samakoush Darounkolayi's entry into this year's Michelin Design Challenge, however, probably owes more to the Disney/Pixar film WALL-E – hopefully the users of his Supple concept won't end up being the grossly overweight, lethargic, mentally-challenged descendants of humanity like those aboard the Axiom cruise ship.
Essentially a self-balancing chair set above an omnidirectional ball, the idea is that Supple will benefit from automated wireless guidance technology, with the driver/rider just needing to choose a destination on a GPS map using the touchscreen console, and the vehicle taking care of the rest. The 19 year-old mechanical engineering student from Iran also sees the electric transport solution having the ability to join with others to form a two-person tandem "motorcycle" or four-person automobile.
It would appear that Supple is primarily meant for indoor/covered use or for regions less prone to rainfall and, while not mentioned in the design brief, presumably there would be some wireless way for individual vehicles to talk to each other and avoid collisions or bottlenecks.
The system would no doubt also include the ability to alter planned routes while on the go, for those of us whose travel plans are often subject to frequent, mood-inspired changes. With the vehicle taking care of much of the actual navigation from A to B (although some sort of manual control would also be welcome), there would no doubt be room in the console for such things as social networking, mobile working or the provision of digital entertainment – just like in the movie.
Although the young designer sees this concept as a future transport possibility, much of the technology needed to produce such a vehicle currently exists in one form or another. I for one wouldn't mind giving it a try – what about you?