Supple - the wheel chair becomes the sphere-chair


April 21, 2011

Mohamad Sadegh Samakoush Darounkolayi's entry into this year's Michelin Design Challenge is an automated, self-balancing personal transport chair balanced on an omnidirectional ball

Mohamad Sadegh Samakoush Darounkolayi's entry into this year's Michelin Design Challenge is an automated, self-balancing personal transport chair balanced on an omnidirectional ball

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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?

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden

Reminiscent of the movie WALLEE...we\'ll all become useless fat slobs carried around by these things constantly and never have to actually DO anything.


Was about to make the same comment as paulgo... this is not progress, this is decline...

Angelie Baral

I guess you have to have vision to see the benefits. What if you arrived at the hospital sick as a dog, or with a broken foot, etc. Just think of how convenient and helpful it would be to have this device at the entrance. Sit down and give it your destination. Or have about handicapped individuals in the grocery store, or even their own home. What about transport from one end of the air terminal to the other. There are many uses for this technology that I can see. How about you?

MSG, US Army (Retired)

Nope. That\'s what wheelchairs are for.

Paul Jensen

Absolutely Brilliant! Bravo.


The time is right to start accommodating these types of personal-mobility devices. With our increasing gas prices and growing traffic-congestion crises, not to mention air-pollution problems, we\'ve got to get more urban travelers out of their cars.... especially the SOV (Single Occupant Vehicles).

Unless we provide a way for urban travelers to use these types of devices or non-car modes of transport a safe, convenient, and comfortable way to get around cities, we will not coax a significant number of these travelers out of their cars.

In my book, THE PET SOLUTION, I explain my theories and introduce a new concept for urban infrastructure.... physically-separated, dedicated lanes, for non-car modes of transport, including these types of vehicles/devices, pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.


Randy Leong


Interesting. Lots of opportunities for thinking up uses for this there any point in making comments [as in the others], that have already been made in the article? Always good to see a positive-thinking reaction such that as from MSG, US Army [Retired]!


I\'m with the Master Sargeant. This might be an evolution and improvement of the wheelchair. It has a tighter turn radius, will keep patient in an upright posture as he/she goes up ramps. The only advantage I see wrt the larger radius ball underneath is that it will smooth out small bumps. Otherwise, I think 3 or 4 smaller, vertically dynamic wheels underneath would do just as well. The Segway type balancing aspect is overrated and unnecessary, imho. I reserve overall judgment until I see it in operation, but there are some good aspects to it.

Bob Tackett

I don\'t know if some of you have ever had a sickness where you need a wheel chair but they suck. I have been so sick, fevered that I barely can function let alone navagate a wheel chair. So Paul Jensen\'s comment to use a wheel chair makes me think he hasn\'t ever had to use one. I would love to be able to sit down tell it where to go and relax versus my poor husband having to try to figure out what wing of the hospital we need to be in; hold my son\'s hand and try not to lose him etc.


hello. very good comment regarding hospitals. the length from one wing to another can encompass a city block. the point of the transport to me was hands free, as depicted, working social media, while care free. programming destination with radar telemetry had me think of one store in the mall to another.


I reckon the use of the single large ball plus balancing software is most probably more of an interesting design project than anything, and that Bob Tackett\'s idea would be the way to go. With destination programming and, of course, manual safety override, I\'m sure this would be a great help in certain environments. Sorry Muraculous, and P.E.T. don\'t include your contributions in my first comments, as they weren\'t showing at that time. Ian Colley.


I\'d like to know more about the software.

Is there hardware as well? Is there a brute force gyro.

There is a definite difference between \"handicapped\" and willfully decayed.

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