Gadgets

This ‘personal mobility device’ would make Professor X drool. Just don’t call it a wheelchair

Ever looked at someone in a motorized chair and thought, “Wow, that’s pretty cool?” Me neither.

But maybe that’s partly because typical scooters are anything but cool. Built to survive huge amounts of abuse while providing reliable operation, they often resemble battery-packs on wheels.

But that might be about to change; there’s a new breed of mobility device on its way. It’s called Whill, and its creators have dubbed it the “world’s most advanced personal mobility device.”

With 22 days left on the device’s Kickstarter campaign, backers can pony up $9,500 to get their hands on a stylish Whill unit that will whisk them wherever they want to go.

The Whill might look like a wheelchair, but its features say otherwise. Equipped with a four-wheel-drive system, Whill can handle snow, gravel, dirt, and other surfaces. Its clever use of “omni wheels” in the front means that Whill can turn on a proverbial dime. Its motorized seating surface can move forward and backward which lets occupants get closer to a table surface without having to leave the Whill.

Equipped with a built-in lighting system that would make the tail lights on a Porsche 911 jealous, Whill can also support a number of accessories, including additional lights, cup holders, and hooks on the backrest to hold backpacks or other bags.

Perhaps most impressively from a technology point of view, with the use of an iPhone app, Whill can be completely remote-controlled. The app provides a virtual joystick which users can move in all four directions which might prove handy if you need easy access to your Whill but can’t keep it stationed near you at all times.

So how fast will this baby go? About 5 miles per hour at top speed. The on-board battery will give a range of 12 miles under “normal” conditions, which may not be sufficient for every scenario, but that ought to be good enough for a day of getting around.  The battery can be fully recharged in 5 hours. Whill weighs about 200 pounds, but it collapses down to a size that will fit in most hatchbacks — just make sure you use a set of rails to help get it in there.

If Whill sounds like the wheelchair personal mobility device you’ve been looking for, you had better act fast, because this will be the last chance to order one before the company begins mass production. Its makers won’t be taking new orders until winter of this year. Oh, and you’ll need to live in the U.S. or Japan, as the company isn’t willing to fulfill other international orders just yet.

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