New Zealand engineer Kevin Halsall has turned Segway into the Ogo – a hands-free wheelchair with a top speed of 20 kmh, powered by batteries, controlled by body movement and balanced without requiring a joystick or use of hands. The Ogo has been tested on people with disabilities from T4 to T12 and some tetraplegics.
The current version boasts wide wheels for off-road terrain and a patented moving seat control, which allows the rider to manipulate the vehicle via the seat using their core muscles. The hands-free feature also means that people can play sports or perform other tasks while moving. The wheelchair also has stabilizers for when users are working or lifting items off the floor. The battery-powered device can also be steered manually if necessary and has a likely range of 18 miles with everyday use. The Ogo allows the user to lean in any direction to keep it upright and mobile.
“The disabled are exactly like you and me, they all need freedom and excitement in their life. And Ogo takes that to a whole new level. It will go faster, it will go more places and is smaller and lighter than just about anything else. And the fact that you can operate it completely hands-free makes Ogo a definite game-changer.”
Halsall began designing the prototype in 2008 when his best friend Marcus Thompson was left paraplegic after a skiing accident. He built the first version of the Ogo in 2011. Thompson used the device to mow his lawns, and trialled it at his work as a teacher at Otaki College in New Zealand.
Invented to help his friend, Halsall started his project by taking apart a NZ$14,000 Segway. “The first thing I thought was ‘if I didn’t have my legs [the Segway] would be the perfect thing I’d be adapting’. The steering and the sensing of it needed to be refined more, and the only way I could do that was getting into the guts of the Segway,” he said.
Ogo, innovate 2015 supreme winner! Thank you to everyone who helped us along the way and for your continued support. pic.twitter.com/SSfiDGNGHS
— Kevin Halsall (@ogoTechnology) October 10, 2015
There is only one Ogo in existence – a hand-built fibreglass prototype. Halsall’s goal is to start manufacturing the Ogo and then create new electronic products for people with disabilities.
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