Power assist systems for ultralight manual wheelchairs have been around for almost two decades in various versions. Most, however, worked under the same principle: you give the propulsion wheels a push, the power assist technology engages, and gives a much-needed boost. This helps tremendously with fatigue over distance, as well as with strength limitations on varied terrain. Nevertheless, they all had the same drawback: they still required some level of propulsion, which still meant a need for notable strength, a range of motion, and coordination. This is where Method Mobility’s forthcoming AMP (assistive manual power) comes in.
The AMP takes the propulsion factor out of power assist, and truly does the work for you. The AMP consists of a power base with two drive wheels that sit underneath your rigid or folding manual chair. Extending from the power base is a wheel cradle on each side to seat your push wheels. The wheel cradles rotate on an arm between forward, center, and back. To dock to the AMP, you simply back into the cradles once your arms are adjusted to the overall width of your chair, and rotate them to center, which lifts your rear wheels slightly off the ground.
Now, here’s the wild part. As the AMP is activated, the wheelchair’s rear wheels are literally self-balancing over the AMP power base, with the cradle arms providing input. Think about how with a Segway or child’s balancing board, you lean for directional propulsion. With the wheelchair balancing on the AMP power base, a slight forward movement of the hand rim tells it to go forward, a slight rearward pull returns to stop, and a slight rearward pull engages reverse, all by tilting the cradle arms. To steer, traditional push-pull movements are used. What’s vital to note is that there aren’t actual push strokes involved, just very fine, almost effortless hand movements. The elimination of push strokes, as well as programmability from very fine hand input movements to larger motor skill movements, allows use by the widest range of ability levels.
The AMP has a top speed of 8 mph, a range of 8 to 16 miles based on terrain and a recharge of two hours. Bluetooth technology connects the user to the system.
Are you ready to grab one of your own? At present, the AMP is due to launch sometime in 2019. Its innovators are two ex-Quickie development guys who know their way around these projects, so they’re finishing up the legal and regulatory processes. However, they do state that when released, the AMP will be notably less costly than existing systems.
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