An entrepreneur from Nairn, Scotland has been awarded $500,000 so he can build a state of the art “smart wheelchair”.
Andrew Slorance appreciates how awkward wheelchairs can be ever since he was left paralysed falling out of a tree when he was 14.
His design will ease painful vibrations for its users and will be self-balancing as well as being an extremely light weight.
The ‘Phoenix Ai wheelchair” will be able to configure itself according to what the user is doing at the time which will make it easier to push and turn as well as stopping the chair from falling backwards.
Pretty smart eh?
Slorance told The Press and Journal: “I’m delighted to have made it to the final five. I’ve worked towards this for years but didn’t expect to make it through.
“I had to make a huge pitch during a Dragon’s Den style interview, but this is amazing.
“I will be working with a number of organisations to develop the chair, but will also be creating three to four jobs.
“I’m so pleased the judges recognised that the wheelchair has proved itself as the most viable mobility device for decades and although it has done well it is now tired and in need of a serious makeover.”
He added: “I wanted to show how I think the wheelchair can be evolved while maintaining its core, proven fundamental capabilities that are behind its success as a mobility device.
“I wanted to be part of this challenge because I broke my back when I was 14 which was now 35 years ago.
“By the time I was 16, I’d decided that I would one day design a wheelchair that would change perceptions by using cutting edge materials and styling.
“I knew the next step beyond advanced materials has to be to make wheelchairs smart. But that costs a huge amount of money in development.
“So, when I saw this challenge, I thought here is the money to develop this technology. No-one else is going to do it.
“No company is going to decide to spend half a million dollars on research and development to advance the manual wheelchair. Why should they? As long as their competitor also doesn’t do it the status quo can continue with wheelchairs remaining much as they were 35 years ago.
“This challenge changes that. Being selected is just incredible. But now the work really begins, we’ve got eighteen months to turn the wheelchair which has been in the technological dark for so long into a futuristic device that intelligently makes wheelchair life easier.”
Andrew Slorance was one of five finalists announced at the Mobility Unlimited Challenge in Las Vegas.
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