I am very excited by this new assistive technology for personal mobility coming out of Japan that can be used to help the aged or handicapped.Rather than have to buy a separate electric scooter for longer distances that is heavy and can be challenging for people with certain disabilities to use, the WHILL
is a simple add-on that can be attached to and removed from a regular wheelchair and can be steered, like a Segway, simply by leaning in the direction you want to go.The WHILL is high-tech looking–like a futurist headphone that you place over the wheels of the chair and according to Gizmodo,
it turns the wheels with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that powers the chair up to 12 mph for 19 miles and then recharges in under 2 hours.While pricing information is not yet available, my assumption is that this add-on will be significantly cheaper than a full-out electronic scooter.
One concern that I have about the WHILL is how someone who is wheelchair-bound will be able to attach/remove the drive-train device without the help of an aide or nurse. Perhaps an even more futuristic version will have the U-shaped WHILL built with push-button retractable arms, so that the attachment can simply “open up” rather than have to be removed.
Another question that I have is what safety features will be built in for example for automatic cut-off should someone using it get ill and keel over unto the device causing it to drive/spin out of control. I am thinking a weight-sensor on the WHILL that detects if too much of a person’s body weight is leaning on it and then cause a safety shutdown.
Overall, I am encouraged by what WHILL will soon be bringing to help people in need to get around more easily in the future.