If you've ever spent any significant amount of time with a wheelchair user, you'll know that the tool isn't the perfect design — it often gets in the way, and it is difficult to get in and out of. The Tek RMD (Robotic Mobilization Device) looks to be a major improvement over the years-old wheelchair design. It's a "motorized standing movement device," and while it's not the first such product that'll hold a paraplegic in a standing position, the makers say it's the smallest of its kind. Size is important for a device like this; the world still is full of places that aren't designed for those who are paralyzed, and at 36cm wide and 62cm long (a third the size of a typical wheelchair), it looks much easier to squeeze through aisles at the grocery store and navigate homes. The 176-pound unit is said to have a top speed of 2 mph, and a range of 9 miles to a charge.
Other than its size, the Tek RMD helps paraplegics by easily allowing them to transition from a sitting and standing position, with the aid of a suspension system. As you can see in the video below, users are able to navigate while seated and adjust throughout the seated and standing range to be able to pick up and use items at different heights and sit down on chairs or stools. And while the unit looks to be at risk of toppling over, Tek says that since it limits users from significantly altering the device's center of gravity, it's safe to use at grades of up to five degrees — about the same as the recommended maximum angle for a wheelchair accessible ramp.
While that all sounds excellent, what's even better is that paraplegics can get into the device on their own. From a seated position, users can control the Tek RMD with a remote control and position it in front of them. After strapping themselves in with a pad placed below the user's lumbar, the user can tighten some straps and lift themselves into the device. It's not the fastest process, but it's a good sight better than having to lift up your entire body with your arms and tossing yourself into a wheelchair. Also, since it's relatively easy to position yourself in the device, TEK says that customers will be able to use bathrooms that aren't specifically handicap-accesible by simply lifting themselves down to the level of the toilet.
Lastly, Tek says that the device should have health benefits for users as well. It's fairly well known that sitting all day isn't excellent for your health, and, according to Tek, those who are paralyzed often face increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pressure sores, and more from poor circulation due to remaining in the same position all day. We've seen other systems that are designed to help promote movement, but since it looks quite easy to stand up in the Tek RMD, we would suspect it'll help reduce the health risks associated with sitting all day. Reuters reports that the device has already been tested in clinical trials, but there's no estimate for when we'll see it available for public purchase — or how much it'll cost.