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Briliant hands-free wheelchair translates body motions into directional input

Say what you will about the Segway, but despite its relatively high dorkiness factor, it was totally ahead of its time when it was first released back in 2001. Since then, the machine’s gyroscopically balanced, motion-sensing design has been copied by countless other personal mobility devices. We’ve seen everything from skateboards to one-wheeled motorcycles that utilize the same configuration, and pretty soon the world might be getting another.

Designed by New Zealand-based inventor Kevin Halsall, the Ogo is a unique hands-free wheelchair that stands upright on just two wheels. Much like a Segway, it’s equipped with an array of different sensors that pick up on the rider’s motion and translate it into directional movement. If the user leans forward forward, for example, the internal motion sensors instantaneously recognize the movement and relay it to the Ogo’s motor, which then propels the wheelchair forward.

ogo-frontUnsurprisingly, Halsall actually built the chair by tearing apart a brand new Segway (which he paid 14,000 New Zealand dollars for — about $9,140 in the U.S.) and modifying it to be more suitable for a seated user. He didn’t just bolt an old car seat to the thing and call it good though. Segways aren’t designed to be completely hands-free, and require riders to initiate turns with handlebars, so Halsall had to rebuild the control system from the ground up. The wheelchair is now controlled by a finely tuned moving seat that allows the rider to initiate turns by leaning in either direction.

Related: The ReWalk 6.0 robotic exoskeleton aims to make wheelchairs a thing of the past

It’s still just a prototype at this point, but based on the short video of Halsall riding Ogo around his workshop, it appears to be pretty damn advanced. By doing little more than shifting his upper body a bit, he’s able to execute extremely precise turns and navigate narrow passages with ease. He doesn’t take it anywhere off-road, but apparently the machine’s wide tires also allow it to roll over tough terrain that would be problematic for traditional wheelchairs.

The Ogo isn’t quite ready for prime time just yet, but it is a finalist in the Innovate Awards for New Zealand, and has already gained attention from a number of private investors. Keep your fingers crossed, and we might just see Ogo hit the streets in a few years time.