Add electric drive to any ordinary, manual wheelchair with the WHILL add-on. The amped up wheelchairs can reach top speeds of over 12 mph.
The aftermarket augmentation device (pictured), made by Japanese company WHILL, looks something like a giant set of headphones – the 2 circular hubs that fit over the outside of the wheelchair’s wheels are connected by a curved bar.
After locking the hubs onto the wheels, the user steers the chair by leaning in the direction they want to travel, pushing against the central bar the bridges over the user’s waist. (It works kind of like a Segway). The speed and rotation speed of the wheels can also be adjusted.
Each hub has a 24-volt motor powered by a lithium-ion battery, which helps the wheels turn and move. It’s good for about 19 hours before needing a 2-hour charge.
The developers are seeking wheelchair users to help test the prototype in the field so they can design a product suitable for commercial production.
The tech was on view at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show earlier this month.