Stand-up wheelchair gives users outdoor mobility

Self-stabilising wheelchair from Israeli technology start-up lets you cruise through town while standing.

HAIFA, ISRAEL (REUTERS) - Nearly 20 years ago Amit Goffer suffered an accident that confined him to a wheelchair.

Increasingly dissatisfied with what was on offer, the electrical engineer built this - the UPnRIDE.

It's a robotic exoskeleton that helps people paralysed from the waist down to stand tall in the outside world.

"The UPnRIDE device, the whole idea is that you can use it outdoors as well as indoors and in a safe manner because they, it automatically balances you and stabilises you. The concept is new because you don't see any disabled person rolling outside in a standing position so this is a breakthrough in the industry of wheelchair manufacturing, I'm sure that others will follow," said Dr Amit Goffer, Chief Technical Officer and founder of UPnRIDE.

It goes from seated to standing at the push of a button.

A gyroscope - similar to that in a two-wheeled Segway - along with self-stabilising software helps the device manoeuvre upright over uneven urban terrain.

For Goffer, it's helped give him back the ability to socialise and look colleagues in the eye.

"I was able to do it with my colleagues, like standing and drinking coffee with them, it sounds very trivial for any person, I mean normal person, an able-bodied person but for me it was like an experience out of this world, being able to stand." 

Clinical studies of the UPnRIDE will take place in the coming weeks in Israel and New York.

High-end wheelchairs cost between US$15,000 (S$20,000) and US$50,000; the team says UPnRIDE's price-point will be somewhere in the middle.

Pending approvals, is set to roll on to the the market next year.