A new wheelchair developed by Japan's Chiba Institute of Technology is able to cope with uneven surfaces and tight spaces with ease. The chair uses an array of sensors to detect obstacles and terrain changes before adjusting automatically. Shuro Nakajima, who led the project, explains that the wheels are actually being used more like legs: the chair climbs stairs one wheel at a time. Sensors are also used to detect an incline or decline in terrain, which allows the chair to adjust the pitch of the seat to keep the user's body as level as possible.
A video released by DigInfo TV clearly demonstrates the benefits of the system over recent stair-climbing chairs that still require level steps and mostly even terrain to operate. The clip also shows other parlor tricks, such as driving while one wheel is on an incline, as well as the ability to deploy stabilizers and rotate its wheels 90 degrees to turn on the spot. It's very impressive stuff, but Chiba Institute says that the system is only a proof of concept: while motion has "mostly been worked out" it will require extensive testing before it comes to market.