Whill – The Wheelchair for the 21st Century

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Technologies to Help the Disabled Take On the World – Part 2

whill2The Whill Type A is more than a wheelchair; call it a personal mobility device.  The Whill is the creation of Japanese designer Satoshi Sugie who says he was inspired by the plight of a wheelchair bound co-worker who found it so embarrassing and daunting to get around in a wheelchair that he finally gave up leaving his home.  Sugie set out to design a device that would be mobile, modern, and easy to use.  The Whill has a number of significant design innovations that have won it a slew of awards.  After seeing it in action, you almost (but not quite) get over the fear that one day you too might be wheelchair bound.  For starters, it has four wheel drive and high power torque and large front wheels that conquer rough terrains ad steep hills. It can maneuver over grass, dirt, gravel, and snow with ease. The front wheels aren’t just wheels.  Each is comprised of a series of twenty-four small rollers that allow it to make very tight turns, allowing the user to navigate narrow spaces through urban areas or store aisles.  It is the first we’ve seen that allows a user to navigate many of the recreational trails that were just too tough even for other motorized chairs. You can watch the video here

  There’s An App For That

whill appThe Whill comes with several control systems.  For starters there’s a micro mouse controller built into the arm that allows the user to make small, accurate moves.  There’s also an app that allows the user or a companion to control the Whill from a smartphone.  You can set it for speed, or direct it to come to you.  A companion can control the chair so he can walk side by side with the user, instead of pushing it from behind.  The Whill can fold down so it can be taken aboard an airplane.

The company has already taken the Whill Type A through several iterations.  The latest include that mouse like joystick control, an adjustable foot rest and seat that make for a more comfortable ride.  And they added larger buttons that make the power seat adjustments much easier and user friendly.

Users of the Whill have been absolutely gushing in praise, saying that with this device they feel that they are enabled for the first time, that they can go out and get around in ways that folks who are traditionally wheelchair bound just cannot do.  And then there’s the form factor.  The Whill gets ooh’s and aah’s wherever it goes.  It is just plain cool to watch in action.  But, as you’d expect it’s not cheap either.  We’ve seen it being sold with a starting price of about $9500.  But considering what it does, and how it looks, the price doesn’t seem out of line.

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Gary is an award-winning journalist who has been covering technology since IBM introduced its first personal computer in 1981. Beginning at NBC News, then at ABC News, Ziff Davis, CNN, and Fox Business Network. Kaye has a history of “firsts”. He was the first to bring a network television crew to the Comdex Computer Show, the first technology producer on ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, the first to produce live coverage of the Solar Power International Conference, and the creator of the Fox Business Network signature series, “Three Days In The Valley”. Along the way he created the History Channel Multimedia Classroom. He has been a contributor to both AARP’s website and to AARP radio, as well as to a handful of other print and web-based publications where he specializes in issues involving boomers/seniors and technology. He has been a featured speaker and moderator at industry events such as the Silvers Summit and Lifelong Tech Conferences at CES, the M-Enabling Health Summit, and the What’s Next Baby Boomer Business Summit. His column, “Technology Through Our Eyes” appears in half a dozen newspapers and websites across the country.

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