By Madhumita Murgia
Invented by engineer Kevin Halsall for his paralysed best friend, the wheelchair is for disabled people with active lifestylesA Segway rebuilt into a hands-free electric wheelchair with a top speed of 20km per hour is on the verge of mass production. The Ogo, built in a shed in New Zealand by Kevin Halsall, is based on Segway technology that enables the user to move intuitively, more precisely and hands-free.
Mr Halsall began designing the prototype when his best friend Marcus Thompson was left paraplegic after a skiing accident and
took four years to develop. It is now a finalist in the National Innovators Awards and is in the process of being commercialised.
The current version has the ability to swap out tyres for different terrains - ideal for an active user who wants to travel offroad. The hands-free feature also means that people can play sports or perform other tasks while moving.
Mr Thompson, whom the wheelchair had been specifically designed for, apparently used the device to mow his lawns, and trialled it at his work as a teacher at Otaki College in New Zealand.
Mr Halsall said in ideal conditions the Segway powering the Ogo had a range of about 40 kilometres, but with everyday use would travel about 30km.
To steer it, users simply lean in the direction of travel and use their core muscles to balance, which occupational therapists say is a key benefit of the Ogo.
In its first version, Mr Halsall borrowed a Segway and added a bolt-on seat. But he wanted to refine the steering further, so he bought his own Segway, which he stripped down, and then patented a new seat moving control mechanism, which he installed.
The wheelchair also has stabilisers for when users are working or lifting items off the floor. The battery-powered device can also be steered manually if necessary.
A price for the Ogo is yet to be fixed but Mr Halsall says he wants to keep it as low as he can to "make it affordable to people that need it."
Source : Here