No ramp? No problem. The Scalevo wheelchair tackles staircases with ease

Most building entrances not specifically designed for accessibility pose a big challenge to those who rely on wheelchairs to get around — but thankfully there’s a new wheelchair in the works that might make getting from A to B a bit easier for disabled people. Scalevo is a completely automated stair-climbing wheelchair that can tackle virtually any staircase. A team of students at ETH Zurich and the Zurich University of the Arts spent ten months creating a working prototype, and recently set out to test the wheelchair in a wide variety of settings.

Previous attempts at stair-climbing wheelchairs have posed additional problems, even if they managed to help wheelchair users navigate staircases. The details of wheelchair design are extremely important, and any change in dimensions or ease of use could make the wheelchair impractical for a slew of reasons other than staircase inaccessibility. Scalevo is the first stair-climbing wheelchair to stick close to the size of traditional manual wheelchairs, specifically designed to fit through standard door spaces and maneuver indoors without added obstacles or hassle.

Scalevo also doesn’t require a huge amount of upper body function or arm strength, which were issues with previous stair-climbing wheelchair releases. The parallel rubber tracks mounted to the bottom of the wheelchair are activated from a button in the wheelchair’s armrest, or even resting in the lap. The tracks adjust with the angle of the seat of the chair so that as Scalevo climbs, the person seated is always upright and comfortable. Scalevo can also climb spiral staircases, steep angles, and steps made of any material, according to Miro Voellmy of the ETH Zurich team.

Thanks to the incline of the chair while the rubber tracks cover the distance over steps, a Scalevo user won’t feel the bump of every step in a jostling ride. The rubber tracks make use of a large, sturdy footprint to keep the chair from tilting or losing balance, and to facilitate a smooth ride that feels more like a ramp. Functions like these will be put to the test when Scalevo competes in the 2016 Cybathlon, an ETH Zurich challenge event for pilots with disabilities — a competition which features cutting edge assistance devices, often developed by ETH student teams.

When not in use on a staircase, Scalevo’s flat ground function works much like the balance system of a Segway. Two main wheels keep the chair in balance and allow for the user’s complete control over direction, including turning on the spot the same way a Segway might. The Scalevo team also believes that once completed for production, the wheelchair will be available on the market for a price only marginally more expensive than traditional wheelchairs.

Cars

Here’s how Uber plans to improve its service for riders in wheelchairs

Uber is working to improve its service for disabled riders. Its latest initiative sees it teaming up with a specialist transportation firm to provide more wheelchair-accessible vehicles with wait times of less than 15 minutes.
Deals

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for November 2018

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Gaming

These are the best Xbox One games available right now

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.
Emerging Tech

Ancient crater the size of NYC discovered under the Greenland ice sheet

A huge crater has been discovered beneath the ice of Greenland, and is thought to be the result of a meteorite impact millions of years ago. The crater is one of the largest ever discovered, measuring 19 miles across.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how the InSight mission to Mars will confirm its landing to NASA

NASA's InSight mission has sent a lander to Mars. NASA researchers have now shared details on how they will monitor the touching down of the lander at the end of its 91 million mile journey.
Emerging Tech

Would you swap your keycard for a microchip implant? For many, the answer is yes

Put down your keycard! More people are turning to implanted RFID chips as their choice of workplace identification. Should we be worried about a world in which employees get microchipped?
Outdoors

‘Super magnesium’ may be the next wonder material for outdoor gear

Super Magnesium is a wonder material that is 30 percent lighter than aluminum, as strong as carbon fiber, cheaper to make, and 100-percent recyclable, making it much better for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Forget joysticks — the Guts Game is controlled by a sensor that you swallow

Researchers have created an unusual new game in which players swallow a biosensor and then compete to raise or lower the temperature in their gut. Sound crazy? Here's why it could catch on.
Emerging Tech

Step inside the Nepalese restaurant staffed by robot waiters

A robotics startup from Nepal has created a robot waiter called Ginger. It's capable of delivering food from kitchen to table, and can even engage customers in a bit of friendly banter as it does so.
Emerging Tech

Doctors could soon ditch stitches and seal skin wounds with lasers

Just like the dermal regenerator in Star Trek, physicians may soon be able to heal skin wounds using smart, laser-based technology. That's thanks to researchers from Arizona State University.
Emerging Tech

From tornado flushes to remote controls, modern toilets are flush with tech

With the global observance of World Toilet Day on November 19, we take a look at how the modern toilet in our homes and businesses have evolved, and how they are becoming smarter tools in the future.
Emerging Tech

NASA selects the all-important landing site for its Mars 2020 rover mission

NASA said on Monday that the landing site for its much-anticipated Mars 2020 rover mission has the potential to "revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life."
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘space wheat’ is helping earthbound farmers grow crops quicker

Could NASA technology for growing plants on other planets help farmers improve crop yield here on Earth? According to researchers in Australia and the U.K., the answer is a resounding yes.