Wired reports: [edited]
When Israeli farmer Gilad Wolf broke his pelvis in 2008, he became determined to turn his wheelchair into a workhorse. After suffering the pain that came from traversing the bumpy rows of his field in a stock chair he began developing new designs better suited to off-road applications. He experimented with solutions based on farm equipment and ultimately took his concepts to the Rad-BioMed Technology Accelerator in Tel Aviv where he got the help required to transform concept sketch into a patent-pending product called SoftWheel.
In traditional wheelchair designs up to 30 percent of expended energy is lost because they lack suspension, leaving only 70-80 percent of the energy put into the chair for propulsion. This creates uncomfortable rides and fatigued drivers. “Most of the time, the user is driving a rigid wheel with no suspension and it breaks your back and shakes your filings loose,” says SoftWheel CEO Daniel Barel.
SoftWheel addresses this problem with their 'symmetric and selective technology' that uses three compression cylinders to absorb shocks within the wheel before they’re transferred to rider. The goal is to make the wheel’s hub essentially float in mid-air while suspending the chair’s mass. Practically this means riders can traverse stairs and curbs nearly as easily as gliding down a ramp by allowing the wheels to bear the brunt of the forces.