WHILL's combination of smart design and advanced technology takes personal mobility to the next level.
WHILL is a personal mobility device for everyone and not a wheelchair.
Satoshi Sugi heard from a wheelchair user that he stopped going to the store because of the embarrassment of being in a wheelchair. This struck a nerve with Sugi and he began to develop a personal mobility device to change the negative perception of the machines.
WHILL is the solution - a personal mobility device with a striking futuristic design and enhanced maneuverability. Hardware is in its final phase and undergoing testing and fine adjustments. The company is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for developing a smart phone application.
Omni wheels are the key to WHILL's enhanced turning and steering, with each wheel containing twenty four small rollers. Four wheel drive gives the user the ability to travel outside over any terrain.
Three different steering mechanisms can be chosen when ordering the device: mouse, joystick, or ergonomic controller. The controls can be installed on either the right or left front arm of the device. Maximum speed is 5.5 miles per hour and the range in normal running conditions is twelve miles.
The seat can move forward and backward for easier access to tables and better comfort. Arms can be moved back to enter the device and then locked in to start the machine. WHILL is 23.6 inches wide by 32.5 inches long, and the campaign page shows a video of loading the device into a car and a picture of an installed chair.
Accessories like lights, cup holders, smart phone attachments and bag hooks are also options that can be attached to WHILL. Fully dressed the chair weighs 200lb and can hold 220lb of passenger or cargo.
The WHILL chair is an amazing device. Enhancing the user experience while easing some of the negative social pressure on a user is an excellent way to sell a product. WHILL is marketed only as a personal mobility device and not a wheelchair or medical device, circumventing the need for FDA approval.
The most exciting thing for me researching WHILL was learning that units will ship in December 2014. The Kickstarter campaign was not running to fund the manufacture of the chair but instead an application to control it. An app will allow users to remotely control the WHILL, locate the nearest charging stations or digitally send a diagnostic report.
WHILLs are currently being manufactured and tested. A blog entry detailing team members testing a chair in Disneyland was posted today and the chair looks great. Running a Kickstarter to enhance a product just before launch is a clever marketing scheme, and hopefully the success of the Kickstarter campaign helps to add buzz to the chair.
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