Affecting approximately 1 in 5,000 boys, Duchenne muscular dystrophy causes the victim's muscles to shrink throughout their lifetime, often to the point that the arms and legs can't be used at all. That's why the european Stichting Flextension (Flextension Foundation) started up the A-Gear project four years ago. The multi-partner effort is designing two arm-worn exoskeletons, intended to help Duchenne patients retain the use of their arms.
Wheelchair users have had to live with the fact that stairs, sharp curbs and doorsteps either required assistance to maneuver, or made access to some locations impossible. The TopChair-S, however, is designed to change that. It's an electric wheelchair designed to safely maneuver over such obstacles, utilizing caterpillar-like tracks in addition to wheels for greater maneuverability and independence.
The continued minituarization of electronics, advances in materials technology, a growing emphasis on clean, sustainable modes of transport and imaginative thinkers with out-of-the-box ideas have converged to give us some truly audacious vehicle designs over the past 12 months. Some are certainly more practical than others, but from personal tricopters to amphibious motorcycles this new breed of personal mobility solutions offers a tantalizing glimpse into how we might be getting from A to B in the future. As we head into a new year with new possibilities, let's take a look at some that could have a role to play in shaping the future of transport.
When we hear about exoskeletons, chances are that we either think of something that allows disabled users to walk again, or that gives wearers extraordinary strength. The European Union AXO Suit project, however, is aimed at creating something else – an exoskeleton that simply allows seniors to stay active.
Although mobility scooters may be a godsend to the elderly and other
people who have difficulty getting around, they certainly don't provide
much in the way of exercise. Electric Bike Technologies' folding Liberty
Trike is designed to change that. Riders can use it in plain ol'
throttle mode just like on a regular scooter, but they can also pedal if
Earlier this year, Ford previewed its Mode:Me and Mode:Pro electric bike concepts. The bikes were envisioned as key components of a multimodal transportation ecosystem that would also incorporate cars and public transit. Recently, it added the Mode:Flex e-bike prototype, which uses the latest wireless and connectivity technologies to integrate further into a coordinated transportation system.
We've seen various stair-climbing wheelchairs over the years, including the iBot, the Chiba and, most recently, the Scalevo. All those designs kept the "wheel" in the chair, but a new design from Hong Kong relies on a set of robotic "pedrails" that look almost like skinny tank tracks. These articulated pedrails allow the electric B-Free Chair to grip the staircase firmly as it navigates up or down.
We've seen tracked wheelchairs
before, that are able to take on steep or uneven terrain. For regular
surfaces, however, wheels make more sense. That's why a group of
students from ETH Zurich and the Zurich University of the Arts are
creating the Scalevo electric wheelchair, which features wheels for
cruising and tracks for climbing stairs.