Satoshi Sugi, the founder and CEO of Whill, was inspired to create a high-tech wheelchair by a neighbor. "He used a wheelchair, and he told me he had given up even going to the grocery store two blocks away. He didn't like being seen in public as weak or crippled. I wanted to make a wheelchair that would make the user feel confident and cool, while also using technology to improve the experience and capabilities."
Sugi partnered with engineers from Sony, Toyota, and Olympus to create the Whill. The design is very modern and sleek, like something Professor X might own. I took it for a spin — though of course as someone who isn't a wheelchair user my impressions were somewhat limited. I found driving the Whill to be completely intuitive and fun.
The controller to steer the Whill was designed to mimic the experience of using a mouse with a computer. You have 360 degrees of motion and can turn on a dime. Each front wheel on the Whill is actually made up of 24 separate tiny tires. This allows it to be very maneuverable indoors. It also has four-wheel drive for handling rough terrain outdoors.
The Whill tops out at 6 miles per hour, and no matter how hard I hit my turns at full speed, it never tipped or wobbled. It has a lead acid battery that takes about five hours to charge and provides power for a 15-mile trip. The Whill costs $9,500 and will begin shipping in April. The company is taking preorders now.