THE PROBLEM: CHAIRS WITH WHEELS
Let me start with a summary. I am going to create a wheelchair that is going to be super for me and many other people around the world. Why? There are really good wheelchairs available for people who can sit up straight and use there arms & hands. But for me, being somebody who is almost completely paralyzed, can not sit up straight nor use my hands, there are no good wheelchairs. I have been in need of a much better wheelchair for over 23 years now, and in that time developed a vision of what a wheelchair needs to be, to be a super wheelchair. You may question "how is Giesbert going to create a SuperChair, while he is not even able to scratch his head?". Read on to find out!
First some history
Hundreds of years ago, somebody got the original idea to place some wheels under a chair, so that a person that can not walk well, can go sit on that wheeled-chair and be pushed around, or if the strength in the arms allows, spin the wheels by hand. (drawing from 1655, source)
The electric-powered wheelchair was invented in the 1930's, making it possible to drive around without somebody having to push you. Although most credit Canadian inventor George Klein with the invention, attempts were made as early as 1912. It wasn't until the 1950s that the first motorised wheelchair was made available to the general public. (source)
Nowadays, wheelchairs are more fancy, but are basically the same as they have always been: a chair with wheels.
Parts of the wheelchair spectrum have developed far, namely manual and electric wheelchairs for people who kan sit up straight and have functional arms. I think these chairs have become so good because surely some are developed by people who had a desperate need for a better wheelchair themselves. Here a picture of 2 top quality wheelchairs, 2018.
Looks good, right? But these are no good chairs for me. Because I can not sit straight up, have no upperbody stability nor functional arms, high risk of pressure wounds and what not. I had 4 wheelchairs so far, and they all sucked. Guess what these chairs have in common: they are designed by people who don't have to use them as I do. That is the main reason, I think.
So, how do the specialists make a chair for me now?
- they start with a chair that is ..the least worst.
- then they spend up to 2 years on it, until they think I can sit in it.
- next I have to work on it for years, trying to get things right.
But it never becomes good, because it is ill suited to start with.
This then is the result, and it works as good as it looks.. :
If there would be suitable wheelchairs for me, it would not take up to 2 years for them to prepare it for me now would it?! 2 years and a lot of cash. Although, there are more reasons causing that slowness, but that is a subject for another time.
Why I think there are no good wheelchairs for people like me:
- people without hands cannot easily build a better wheelchair.
- the insurance wants the chair to be as cheap as can be.
- minimal is the norm (while I would like optimal to be the norm)
- just a chair with wheels, is a very old fashioned idea.
But the main reason I think, is the fact that the kind people who build us these chairs, don't have to live in it as I do. And the people who do know what is needed, are not capable of building it. I am mad for trying!
My daily routine is like a survival challenge, with extremely little energy and time left for anything else than care.
THE NEED FOR A NEXT LEVEL SUPERCHAIR
Would you like to sit in an aircraft designed by somebody who is has never flown any aircraft? I can't stand having to live in a wheelchair that is designed by somebody that apparently doesn't need to live in it him/her selve.
It is going to be a major challenge for me to realize my SuperChair vision, as I can not be your typical workaholic style entrepreneur, feels like mission impossible, but I am going to create it! Waiting for 23 years while in need has given me a lot of user experience and motivation. Plus: I am a maker, I would love to do this.
Also technology has advanced far enough to make a giant leap forwards in electric wheelchair country!
Better wheelchair, better life.
For me, an electric wheelchair is so much more than a just chair with wheels. It is like a part of my body, giving the freedom to get out of my hospital bed. The better my wheelchair-body is, the more I can achieve in the "outside world" (the world outside my hospital bed).
This is the logo of the SuperChair.
The logo is not a technical drawing of the SuperChair, but it contains some clues. The normal position will not be sitting up straight, but instead something in between sitting and laying. This position reduces the risk of pressure wounds, it helps against being dizzy (no muscle control = often dizzy), it gives the upper body more stability, less chance of growing a curved spine, and it gives the chair more stability/safety. The egg shape is more symbolic, saying that this chair will protect you better. The eight wheels, well; I am looking into different wheel configurations, to reach the goals of sitting lower and driving over obstacles more easily. In the end the SuperChair may look completely different from the logo.
Who can benefit from this SuperChair?
I design this SuperChair because I need it. But it will not be just for me. It will be for anyone who has one or more of the following:
- not able to walk or walk well.
- less or no upperbody stability.
- less or no power & control over arms and hands.
- having risk of pressure wounds.
- less body power, or even almost completely paralyzed.
- people who sit uncomfortable in the available options.
Think not just for people with physical damage, but also simply all the people who are getting physically old. This is a huge group.
Furthermore, the aim of this project to lift is the norm of what a wheelchair can be, to a next level, hoping that other wheelchair producers will follow my example.
Optimal instead of Minimal
This is my motto: optimal instead of minimal.
We people often go for minimal quality instead of optimal quality, because that will cost less effort and money in the short run. While, who doesn't know that: in the long run, the financial and emotional costs of minimal are often higher than with optimal quality. (by the way, don't confuse optimal quality with perfect quality). Make me king of the world and I will try to optimize everything!
Products & Goals
I have a couple of products and goals planned for my company:
- Product: SuperChair
- Product: SuperChair fly unit
- Product: a new type of massage cushion
- Goal: proof how optimal conditions can be good for all.
- Goal: bring the norm of what a wheelchair can be up to a next level.
The first product will be the SuperChair. It is in its very early R&D stage, I can not write down all the details. But here are the SuperChair goals, relative to the current norm:
- increased safety driving outside
- increased safety in a bus
- increased safety in the dark
- less chance of pressure wounds
- more stability
- driving up and down a sidewalk easier
- driving faster and further
- practical in all weather conditions: hot, cold, wet, windy.
- this chair will
increase the health of your muscles
- better access for the people who help
- this chair will
be a time saver
- USB power onboard, of course.
- an open source OS, giving advanced users access to the OS.
- a stand with wheels, for somebody who travels with you.
- cruise control
- compartments on board where you can put your stuff in.
- and it will have an option to fly -no joke!
A flying wheelchair, really?
Yes really. Though to keep it real: this is not the standard configuration. The fly unit can be connected to the chair's frame, and some weight must be taken off the chair before flight. It will be an expensive addition to the chair, so it is probably necessary to rent the fly unit instead of buying it. The craft will "fly-by-wire", meaning that the computer is actually flying the craft, and you give it directions. Letting go of the controls will not result in a crash, but instead result in a safe dynamic hover mode. Flying of course is more risky than driving, but I believe it can be safer than a chair that can climb stairs. And again, it may sound like science fiction, but we are living in the future, relative to 50 years ago. New materials, new tools. It is possible, and I am very motivated to realize it.
Here a youtube playlist I made, examples, showing the rise of the flying chair.
Not out of this world
There also are features that the SuperChair can not do. It can not dive under water nor open wormholes to other universes. But seriously; not all the features we would like to add, can be realistically combined. For example; it can not climb stairs, because I think that is dangerous, even more than flying, and climbing stairs can not be combined with many other priorities.
How much will the SuperChair cost?
It will be a very expensive chair, especially in the beginning, because it has a lot of features, and it will at first not be mass produced.
How much costs could the SuperChair prevent?
If the SuperChair can for example prevent a pressure wound or a wheelchair accident just once, or give more independence. How much money does that save? That can make the SuperChair indirectly cheap. And impossible to connect to a financial number, but: how much happier will we all be with one pressure wound less!
When will the SuperChair be ready for sale?
This depends on:
- how fast investors want to reach their goals.
- how long it takes to find talented & motivated people.
Please let me know if you want & can join.
More information follows below here.