The Acrobat wheel, produced by Israeli start-up Softwheel, uses a suspension system designed to make life easier for wheelchair users. A three-pronged, moving, suspension system between the wheel rim and hub absorbs the impact of curbs and stairs, giving a smoother ride.
Dror Cohen, a Softwheel Product Specialist, uses the Acrobat on his own wheelchair: “Where I want to go I just go, and if I want to go down a sidewalk to get to the other side of the road I just go down and it’s a very new sensation.”
The wheel’s hub shifts automatically when navigating obstructions, expanding or retracting the wheel’s three spokes, to absorb most of the impact.
Daniel Barel, Softwheel’s CEO, said: “This is the mechanism which is connected to the rim. This is the hub, it usually sits in the centre of the wheel, as the hub usually does, but when it encounters an obstacle, the hub shifts, the arms know how to change their position and make the hub shift inside of the rim that surrounds the mechanism, allowing it to absorb all the energy, from the obstacle and within fractions of a second it regains its rigidness by shifting back to its centre position.”
Computerised analyses of videos of the wheels in action helped technicians achieve what they believe is the optimal design. The firm has also created a similar system for cyclists, which is currently being tested.
Both versions can be retro-fitted to existing wheelchairs and bicycles, and the company says the wheelchair system will go on sale this year, but cyclists will have to wait until 2015 for a smoother ride!