This innovative air-powered wheelchair is totally waterproof because it has no electronic parts

Imagine a new type of powered wheelchair that’s totally waterproof, weighs just one-third of a regular powered wheelchair, and doesn’t need its batteries to be replaced at great cost every couple of years. That’s what researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) have created with a new wheelchair design that’s powered by compressed air.

Oh, and they’ve built a four-wheel scooter, which runs on the same principle, for good measure, too.

Called the PneuChair, the wheelchair weighs just 80 pounds, is constructed from components available from any local hardware store, and can be recharged in just 10 minutes using an air compressor, as opposed to the multi-hour charging of a regular battery-powered wheelchair. (The downside is that it only has a range of around three miles, however.)

The PneuChair project’s lead mechanical engineer was graduate student researcher Brandon Daveler. “As a power wheelchair user for over 10 years, I first-handedly understand the issues of battery-powered devices,” he told Digital Trends. “So developing the technology will not only help myself but also the millions of other powered mobility device users.”

pneumatic wheelchair lightweight waterproof img 2820

At present, the team is busy testing the prototypes to ensure they meet the necessary wheelchair standards. Plans to perform a pilot study using the devices are also in development to gain feedback from potential users, with the intent to eventually pursue a grant to perform a larger clinical trial.

And after that? Hopefully FDA approval, and marketing the technology to potential customers.

“I hope that the PneuMobility products will gain world-wide reach and help to solve problems associated with batteries for people in low-income countries where reliable electric power is a problem, in long-term care facilities where safety and battery maintenance is a problem — [and] perhaps even grocery stores, malls, and big-box stores,” Dr. Rory Cooper, Director of HERL, told Digital Trends.

Mobile

Why Honor’s new screen is the hole-y grail in quest to ditch the notch

Honor will release a smartphone with an in-screen camera in the new year, a trend which is gathering momentum in the industry. Honor said it has cracked the formula, and explains what's special about its All-View Display.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.
Photography

2018 was a terrific year for new cameras. Here are our favorites

This year, we saw the unveiling of several exciting new cameras. We look back at our favorite models -- each delivering something unique, yet all are powerful and feature-rich. Camera fans, rejoice!
Mobile

Midrange phones can’t do A.I., but MediaTek’s P90 chip aims to change that

MediaTek has announced the Helio P90 mobile processor, which it says will bring the best A.I. features we see on high-end smartphones, to the mid-range. We spoke to the company about the chip.
Emerging Tech

Bright ‘hyperactive’ comet should be visible in the sky this weekend

An unusual green comet, 46P/Wirtanen, will be visible in the night sky this month as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 20 years. It may even be possible to see the comet without a telescope.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous images show storms and cloud formations in the atmosphere of Jupiter

NASA's Juno mission arrived at Jupiter in 2016 and has been collecting data since then. NASA has shared an update on the progress of the mission as it reaches its halfway point, releasing stunning images of the planet as seen from orbit.
Emerging Tech

Meet the MIT scientist who’s growing semi-sentient cyborg houseplants

Elowan is a cybernetic plant that can respond to its surroundings. Tethered by a few wires and silver electrodes, the plant-robot hybrid can move in response to bioelectrochemical signals that reflect the plant’s light demands.
Emerging Tech

Beautiful image of young planets sheds new light on planet formation

Researchers examining protoplanetary disks -- the belts of dust that eventually form planets -- have shared fascinating images of the planets from their survey, showing the various stages of planet formation.
Emerging Tech

Delivery robot goes up in flames while out and about in California

A small meal-delivery robot suddenly caught fire in Berkeley, California, on Friday. The blaze was quickly tackled and no one was hurt, but the incident is nevertheless a troubling one for the fledgling robot delivery industry.
Emerging Tech

High-tech dancing robot turns out to be a guy in a costume

A Russian TV audience was impressed recently by an adult-sized "robot" that could dance and talk. But when some people began pointing out that its actions were a bit odd, the truth emerged ... it was a fella in a robot suit.
Emerging Tech

MIT’s smart capsule could be used to release drugs in response to a fever

Researchers have developed a 3D-printed capsule which can monitor patients' vital signs, transmit this information to a connected device, and release drugs in response to symptoms.
Emerging Tech

‘Crop duster’ robot is helping reseed the Great Barrier Reef with coral

In a world first, an undersea robot has delivered microscopic coral larvae to the Great Barrier Reef. Meet Larvalbot: the robot "crop duster" which dispenses coral babies on troubled reefs.
Emerging Tech

Self-driving dirt rally vehicle offers crash course in autonomous car safety

Georgia Tech's AutoRally initiative pushes self-driving cars to their limit by getting scaled-down autonomous vehicles to drive really, really fast and aggressively on dirt roads. Here's why.
Features

Cities looking to get smart take a lesson from an iconic shopping mall

From Disney World to the Mall of America, public venues are becoming microcosms for smart city projects. We dove into both, to show what government officials can learn – and what you can expect from your city.