Making a wheelchair capable of overcoming architectural barriers must not have been easy: today a team of engineers from the Chiba Institute of Technology, led by the Associate Professor, has succeeded in the feat using a good dose of lateral thinking.
A wheelchair? Difficult to define it in this way: when it encounters an obstacle, Chiba transforms the wheels into ... legs!
Needless to say: the wheel is a universal and efficient way to allow movement for all people with limited mobility. However, the limits are still many: in particular conditions even the threshold of an entrance, or a sidewalk, can become insurmountable barriers.
Chiba brilliantly avoids this problem by mounting four independent wheels on five axles, which act as suspensions: in the presence of an obstacle, a transformation takes place. Next to each wheel there is a sensor, which detects the possibility of proceeding: if this is missing (that is, if the wheel is unable to turn) the wheels move literally transforming themselves into 'legs': as if that were not enough, the sensors also evaluate the extent of the 'step to be taken', preventing users from ending up on the ground.
Chiba does not require particular attention from those who use it: it is equipped with a joystick and is easily guided even in small spaces (the independent wheels are able to make the chair complete a turn on its axis).
At present the concept is in the mechanical structuring phase. The test phase will follow.
Here is a video of Chiba in action:
[Youtube] t2SHKyq5yCU [/ youtube]