LocalMatters       

World-first NZ chair gives life balance

Posted at 1:56pm Tuesday 15 Sep, 2020

A Kiwi-designed electronic wheelchair described as “the closest thing to walking” is making inroads into overseas markets.

The Omeo chair is based on Segway technology and uses the body's own sense of balance to steer – a rider only needs to lean in the direction that they want the chair to go. Designer Kevin Halsall says it more closely matches the body's natural inclination to use balance for movement. Hands-free operation provides the freedom of carrying something while moving and can prevent rotator cuff injuries.

The Omeo also allows riders to more easily traverse outdoor environments. One unique feature is that the seat stays level, so riders can travel up and down gradients of up to 25 degrees without fear of falling off. Kevin designed the Omeo for his mate Marcus Thompson, who had been in a chair for 16 years. The chair has enabled Marcus to independently go surfing because he can carry his board to the water's edge.

The Omeo has a top speed of 20kph and a range of 60km on a single charge. It retails for $30,000 – a standard chair might cost around $21,000. The company has sold 200 units worldwide and is funded by ACC and its Australian counterpart.

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