The ReWalk Exoskeleton is one of the most game changing and life changing technologies to come out of Israel. This incredible device allows the millions of paraplegics around the world, people paralyzed from the waist down, to walk and even run again. But believe it or not, this incredible device does have at least one notable downside—it can only be used by approximately ten percent of handicapped individuals.
Even Dr. Amit Goffer, the inventor of the ReWalk device, cannot use the device because he is a quadriplegic and does not have full use of his arms, which is what inspired him and RehaMed Technologies CEO Oren Tamari to think of a more comprehensive solution. Meet the UPnRIDE—the standing wheelchair that will allow any and every kind of handicapped person to traverse the outdoors without the fear of falling.
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The UPnRIDE is a standing wheelchair that allows its users to travel, sitting or standing, with ease. Much like a Segway or an electric scooter, when placed in standing position, the UPnRIDE moves over all different kinds of terrains at the user’s guidance. The emphasis here is on mobility, according to Goffer and Tamari, and not on getting the person to walk as is the case with ReWalk.
Discussing the inspiration for the device, Dr. Goffer says: “I have the benefit of being confined to a wheelchair so I tried to create the ultimate solution for the handicapped as I see it. The person on the outside will see it as a Segway and not a wheelchair. For the younger generation of handicapped individuals, this is especially important.”
Standing wheelchairs are by no means a new technology. They were first created in order to facilitate better circulation and other health benefits for the wheelchair-confined, and to provide a chance for real eye-to-eye social interaction. However, the UPnRIDE will not be the run-of-the-mill standing wheelchair; it will provide something that no standing wheelchair of its kind has before—stability.
In an interview with NoCamels, Tamari explained the three features that may make the UPnRIDE a revolution in standing wheelchairs: “First, the UPnRIDE maintains the same center of gravity sitting and standing, making it harder to fall when standing up. Second, the user sits on a stabilized platform that is an ‘active stabilizer,’ automatically adjusting the angle of the seat to be vertical to the traveling surface. Finally, in emergency situations, UPnRIDE’s technology is able to identify when someone is likely to fall, releasing safety arms that are a lot like airbags in a car. These will catch the user as they fall and put them back in place on the device.”
A complement for ReWalk’s success
As a team of engineers and developers works on a prototype of the UPnRIDE device, which Tamari believes will be ready for market within two years, he explains the necessity of adding UPnRIDE into the ReWalk mix.
“When I worked at ReWalk, people, and particularly mothers, were calling in everyday asking about the device for their handicapped child. It was so difficult for me to have to turn them away when they told me that their child was quadriplegic or had multiple sclerosis, because I knew that they couldn’t use it. The UPnRIDE is really the complementary product for ReWalk, providing a solution for all kinds of handicapped people.”
Goffer has a simple answer that sums up why this product may have good chances to succeed like ReWalk: “To be completely honest,” he says, “I would want this for myself.”
While, the Goffer-Tamari team is currently engaging in fundraising for further development, the Office of the Chief Scientist of Israeli has already granted the technology an impressive R&D grant and at least one angel investor has signed on the list to invest in UPnRIDE. When asked why he thinks there has been a good degree of early interest in the device, Tamari admits it’s “due to ReWalk’s success,” but it seems likely that this mobilizing device is on the road to making gains in its own right.