The Rodem electric wheelchair prototype was rolled out to wide acclaim this past Wednesday, August 26 by the Veda International Robot R&D Center in Munakata, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. States Makoto Hashizume, who leads the team at Veda, "I believe this is a whole new idea for a wheelchair. With this vehicle, users can move around more freely and more actively without much help from other people."
The Rodem addresses several longstanding issues of concern to the disabled. For example, by pressing a button the user can raise or lower the seat - helpful when getting on or off the wheelchair and also useful when high objects need to be reached.
According to Shinichiro Takasugi, a lecturer at Kyushu University and a member of Kyushu University Hospital's rehabilitation department, "It was our task to make a wheelchair that was easy to get in and out of." In addition to the adjustable seat, the Rodem features a backless design that dispenses with traditional wheelchairs' tall wheels and obtrusive armrests.
Weighing in at just 100kg (about 220lbs.), the Rodem will run for about 4 hours when fully charged. If negotiations with private manufacturers go well, the Rodem will hit the stores and streets at an estimated price of 500,000 yen (about $5,300) each. As advanced as the Rodem is, developers are already looking into ways to improve the device to assist not only the disabled but the elderly.
"We can add more robot-like functions in future," explains Yoichi Takamoto, president of Tmsuk Co., a Japanese robot manufacturer that is participating in the Veda project. "For example, we could add a new function so it comes to your bedside when you call." (via Mainichi Daily News, Red Orbit and Breitbart)