Personal mobility has become a byword for designer wheelchairs but disabled people have had their own standard versions of personal mobility for years; they just simply called them wheelchairs like anyone else. And no matter what kind of hybrid design any boffin comes up with, it’s merely an imitation of the old fashioned wheelchair.
Take a look at these pimped up wheelchairs below; they’re based on the classic wheelchair shape with two big wheels on each side, the single seat in the middle and even a reclining-tilt feature. The new breed of gadget personal mobility vehicles has blurred the lines between mini-concept cars and wheelchairs but there’s no denying their roots. The only worry is wannabe wheelchair pretenders purchasing these gizmos and cutting us up on ramps and in queues…
The first of a few entries from Japanese tech and automotive giant, Toyota.
1) The i-Real
The i-Real is on its way to commercial production and is sure to be in huge demand. It features three wheels (two at the front and one at the back), and can manoeuvre naturally among pedestrians in busy areas.
It’s got a well-honed perimeter monitoring system to help keep the driver and those near the vehicle safe, emitting a sound and vibration if people are in overly close proximity.
2) The Panasonic Robot Bed
The Panasonic Robot Bed has got to be our personal favourite for the home environment. You wake up, push a button, and seconds later you find yourself upright in a mobile wheelchair.
Resembling something that the humans had in WALL-E, the Robot Bed in its converted state can navigate around the house while avoiding obstacles with ‘no need for training’, say Panasonic. The control panel is even fitted with a TV and can sync up to your other tech products so you can control them from your chair.
Expect this to be a huge hit with lazy, able-bodied geeks who can’t handle the eight-foot walk from their bed to their Xbox.
3) The TankChair
Look at this beast! No, it’s not Johnny Five from Short Circuit – it’s more like Ironside meets Top Gun. If you’re frustrated at not being able to experience the great outdoors, your problems may well be solved.
The aptly-named TankChair is described as ‘a custom off-road wheelchair that can go anywhere outdoors’ and with its rubber tracks and Optima Deep Cycle 12v batteries, we’re not surprised.
Built to conquer streams, mud, snow, sand, and gravel, the TankChair is built bespokely for every individual buyer so although there’s no pricing structure at present, we can’t imagine it’ll be cheap. But why do you need one of these? Because life is one big concrete jungle…
3) The Toyota i-Unit
Probably the most aesthetically-pleasing of the bunch, the Toyota i-Unit stole the show at a world Mobility Performance Exhibition with design inspiration stemming from a leaf that “converts sunlight into life energy, seeks to express the power of the unknown, the logic of living things and the simple beauty of waste-free functionality.” Ok.
The i-Unit is controlled using drive-by-wire technology via a joystick controller and can transform into a laid-back mode for increased speed.
Our only concern is that with the roof down, it looks scarily like some kind of cryogenic pod but that’s a small price to pay for, erm, a large price to pay – we’re talking around £10,000.
4) The Trekinetic
Several years ago, a British entrepreneur noticed a young, trendy good-looking lad in a wheelchair and was struck by the damning contrast between the fashion-conscious teenager’s appearance and the sedate, traditional design of his wheelchair.
The entrepreneur, Mike Spindle, decided to do something about this and created the Trekinetic – an all-terrain revolution from conventional manual wheelchairs that folds quickly into a 9kg state.
It is believed to be the world’s first production Monocoque wheelchair, meaning it doesn’t have a tubular metal chassis, but a strong carbon-fibre seat shell instead.
5) The Toyota i-Foot
No, it’s not Buzz Lightyear – it’s the end of our little feature and we had to finish with a bang. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Toyota i-Foot.
Dubbed the ‘world’s coolest wheelchair’ on Flickr, the i-Foot lets people on or off by bending its legs and then sets off at a white-knuckle maximum of 1mph. It’s capable of three-dimensional mobility, with the ability to navigate staircases.
At 7.74 feet tall and 441lbs, this gigantic walking egg-shell was the name on everyone’s lips at the 2006 Japanese World Expo and is yet to go into mass-production.
We’re not advising you also go for the martian-like attire but if you’ve got £20,000 knocking about, we’d love to see someone ambling down the high street in one of these.