Ten students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the Zurich University of the Arts designed the Scalevo Wheelchair, a wheelchair with unparalleled stair-climbing capabilities, Reuters reports.
When the wheelchair operator is faced with stairs, he simply has to press a button to release rubber tracks that work on most staircases, including ones that are uneven, cracked, and even spiral. The wheelchair ascends the stairs backwards, but has a video camera that allows the driver to see what’s going on behind him, like a reverse parking camera in a car. Using this technology, the driver is able to climb one stair per second.
The design of the Scalevo is similar to a Segway in that when it’s being operated on flat ground it balances on two wheels. This design allows the user to get around more efficiently; for example, he can change direction much more quickly than in a traditional wheelchair.
The students built a prototype in ten months and discovered in testing that it can be driven on staircases around 34 to 17 degrees, which includes almost every staircase. They hope that their invention will eliminate the need for access ramps and stairlifts, which are often out of the way or otherwise inconvenient.
This is not the first stair-climbing wheelchair. Johnson & Johnson discontinued its iBot six years ago. The device was expensive and required users to be able to use at least one arm and have upper body control, an ability that many wheelchair users don’t have.
The Scalevo creators don’t expect their device to be significantly more expensive than regular wheelchairs, and because everything is automated, it’s much more user-friendly.