Dean Kamen invented the iBot as a re-imagining of what the electric wheelchair could be to bring vastly improved personal mobility to individuals unable to stand or walk. He invented the Segway Personal Transporter (PT) to bring vastly improved personal mobility to individuals who anyone who can stand, even if they have little or limited ability to walk. The Segway PT has gone on to become the mobility device of choice for a wide range of disabled users.
Both the iBot and the Segway PT did away with old paradigms early in the design stage and delivered the kind of “the future is here now” solutions that visionary engineers bring to our lives.
Another mobility device was released this week that threw out 100 years of thinking behind wheelchairs in an effort to come up with something better for people with spinal injuries. Called the TEK Mobilization Device it has been touted (as usual) as being “a bit like a Segway” at Gizmodo – but really it isn’t at all.
But for individuals with serious spinal injuries it promises personal mobility like never before. Take a minute to watch the video at Gizmodo to really find out all the ways this invention is a paradigm shift away from the old fashioned 20th century idea of an electric wheelchair.
This is a fine reminder that so often humans think of solutions only in terms of refining what has been done before, rather than starting over with a clean sheet of paper.
And in other “a bit like a Segway” news with CNN Money and GreenBiz: the Lit Motor C-1 is a prototype for an enclosed motorcycle that uses gyroscopes to self-balance. It has a pod-like enclosure “a bit like an EN-V or P.U.M.A.” but looks most of all like a Light Cycle from the movie TRON. Two large gyroscopes provide stabilisation via gyroscopic forces that prevent it from tipping to the side (which is completely unlike how the Segway PT maintains balance). The CNN Money video is the best way to understand how this technological solution is clever – and may even be useful – should the device move from prototype to production.
Technology blog Txnologist (sic) has a good article also has an interesting article about the LIT.
UPDATE 5 JUNE 2012: Wired has an excellent article and some more video here that shows the twin gyroscopes in operation. Interestingly, the gyros look surprisingly like that featured in the Uni-Pod concept artwork from 1963, in terms of size and design.