When a location lacks wheelchair accessibility it can be a highly frustrating experience, and one that often makes it remarkably hard for disabled people to maintain independence. Enter this all-electric Scalevo wheelchair, which can climb and descend stairs using a set of retractable tracks. Scalevo was designed by a team of 10 students from ETH Zurich, and it provides smooth mobility for the user with a Segway-like two-wheeled system.

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The two wheel set up of the Scalevo not only makes for a smoother ride, but also provides greater agility and the ability to make quick, sharp turns. When the wheelchair reaches stairs the user can press a button to lower the twin rubber tracks. These tracks then automatically align with the stairs, measuring the incline with the use of sensors; a piston-driven system then adjusts the level of the wheelchair’s seat so as the driver remains in a normal seating position relative to the stairs. This system of tracks and sensors is also able to identify and navigate obstacles, providing the wheelchair user with additional independence.

Related: Robotic exoskeleton gives paraplegics the ability to walk

The ETH students have developed and tested their first prototype—it’s pretty slow on the stairs at present, but they hope to reach a speed of one-step-per-second. The prototype meanwhile will be used in next year’s Cybathlon, an ETH-sponsored race for disabled athletes.

+ Scalevo

Via Fast Co.Exist