Wheels are the most efficient way to get around, but they can’t take you everywhere. This new robotic wheelchair designed in Japan can go almost anywhere, however–it can swivel its axles up and down to climb up stairs, onto curbs or over obstacles.
All the user has to do is move a joystick to point it in the desired direction, and the robo-chair figures out what to do. Sensors on its feet detect the distance to nearby obstacles and determine their size. The chair will stabilize itself in the best position to hoist one of its front wheels, like a rider straddling a horse.
It has four-wheel drive and five axes of motion, including the ability to deploy horizontal stabilizers and spin in a tight circle. This would make it easier to back up or change directions, even in tight spaces. The chair is still a prototype, with ongoing tests at the Chiba Institute of Technology in Japan.