For thousands of years humans have been frustrated by the mutual incompatibility of stairs and wheels. Those of us with functional legs have to abandon wheels as soon as we encounter stairs, and so bikes get carried up and down and refrigerator delivery men get nervous when their wheel driven cargo won’t fit in the elevator.
For people using wheelchairs this is not just an inconvenience, but is an impossibility altogether. As a matter of fact, obstacles like curbs and uneven sidewalks are constantly in the way of those in wheelchairs. To address this longstanding problem, Japanese engineers from Chiba Institute of Technology have created an unusual wheelchair that can handle some basic stair climbing and help get over obstacles on the road that would otherwise pose a challenge for traditional wheelchairs. It uses sensors to analyze the topography around itself while the pivoting wheels automatically position themselves to climb over the obstacles.
Not bad, but we’d like to see what happens when the wheelchair encounters a real flight of stairs.
(hat tip: Engadget)