Veda International Robot R&D Center announced a concept model of the electric wheelchair "Universal Vehicle Rodem" (model number: M1-1) Aug 26, 2009.
The R&D center is organized by Kyushu University, Waseda University, tmsuk Co Ltd and others. It aims to replace not only existing wheelchairs but also two-wheel vehicles in the future.
The two main wheels of the Rodem are independently driven by a control valve type lead battery. The wheelchair can run for about four hours per charge. The traveling speed can be selected by operating a joystick from 6km/h (high speed mode), 3.5km/h (medium speed mode) and 1.0km/h (low speed mode) for forward movement and 3km/h for backward movement. The height of the seat can be changed between 380 and 700mm.
From the viewpoint of wheelchair users such as elderly and disabled people, the distribution of body pressure greatly differs between existing wheelchairs and the Rodem. In the case of normal wheelchairs, users take a seat from the front side of the chair and lay back, and the load is focused on the back and waist as if being carried by someone.
On the other hand, in the case of the new electric wheelchair, users sit on the saddle from behind, and the load is distributed on the saddle, a panel in front of the chest and parts below the knees as if being carried on someone's back. As a result, the users feel less load on their body.
This way of riding reduces the burden on caregivers, too. When a wheelchair is used, an elderly or disabled person has to go through seven processes, sitting up on the bed, leaning forward, leaving the bed, turning his or her back to the wheelchair, sitting on the seat, sitting up on the seat and moving backward. In the third (leaving the bed) and the fourth (turning the back to the wheelchair) processes, the caregiver has to sustain the weight of the driver, straining the waist.
Meanwhile, it is possible to ride on the Rodem through three processes, which are sitting up on the bed, leaning forward and leaving the bed, reducing the burden on caregivers.
The dimensions of the Rodem are 1,220 (L) x 690 (W) x 700mm (H), which are equivalent to the size of a normal wheelchair. The weigh is about 100kg, and the minimum turning diameter is 850mm.
Veda International Robot R&D Center plans to select a partner company that will manufacture and sell the new wheelchair and to announce a product in autumn 2009. It aims to release a product within a year at an expected price of ¥500,000 to 700,000 (approx US$5,324-7,454).