Sunday, June 7, 2009

Hands-free wheelchair lets Murderball athletes focus on hitting each other


Anyone who's seen Murderball knows how serious wheelchair athletics can be, but it's always struck me as more than a little inefficient that the athletes need to use their hands to both play ball and steer their wheelchairs. Short of giving them extra arms, is there anything that can be done about this? A group of designers thinks so, creating this Balance Sport Wheelchair that turns according to which way the person leans, sort of like a Segway. Users presumably still have to push to get their speed up, but the steering's all done by shifting weight. And to stop, just lean back.

Ricky Biddle, Eric Larson and Ben Shao conceived the design, which can be customized to its owner, since paraplegics vary greatly in their mobility. Someone with very limited movement might adjust the brake and turning response so they're activated by even slight leans, while those with more mobility would probably prefer a greater range. Looks like a great idea to us, but if there are any disabled readers out there, we'd love to know your thoughts.

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