Davide Segalerba, who recently graduated from the Galileo Galilei Technical Institute in Genoa, Italy, spent 11 years in a wheelchair due to surgical procedures. While he can now walk, this experience showed him just how many obstacles exist to using a wheelchair in everyday life. To help combat these difficulties, he came up with a prototype chair that features not wheels for locomotion, but a pair of tank-like tracks instead.
According to Wired.it (translated), the system is so robust that it can climb up steps and sidewalks, and traverse slopes of up to 30 percent. Steering is taken care of via a joystick, but it can also be activated by voice commands via either an iOS or Android app. An Arduino board is used for control, while a Bluetooth module allows for linking with a smartphone. Currently, the chair is a 1/3 scale prototype, but companies have shown interest, so it’s possible this device could inspire a full-sized commercial product.
The impressive project was developed as a part of the TecnicaMente contest in Italy, put on by the Adecco employment agency with the goal of increasing technical employment in the area. Unlike most other teams competing, Segalerba designed and built this project entirely by himself over the period of a year and a half, using 3D modelling skills, 3D-printed parts, and tools such as a lathe.