A Japanese startup is betting that an aging population of tech savvy first adopters will want their super-wheelchair
By Tam Harbert
A Japanese startup founded by former automotive engineers wants to turn the wheelchair into an accessory for the tech savvy. Their company, Whill, is building a “personal mobility device” that it says is easier and more comfortable to use than conventional power wheelchairs. Whill’s chair, called the Model A, features an advanced drive system that lets it take tight turns and ride on rough terrain. It also has a minimalist, sleek design that makes it look like it came from a science fiction movie.
This month, Whill plans to start selling the Model A in Japan and the United States (initially only in California, for US $9,500). The company is betting on what might seem like a strange thing: that the global market for wheelchairs will grow at a fast pace, and that users will demand more capable—and better-looking—offerings. Some demographic trends support this: The number of people 65 and older is expected to triple by 2050 to reach 1.5 billion, or about one in every six people on the planet. And the older population is likely to help drive up the number of people with disabilities, which is at 15 percent today, according to the World Health Organization. …[Read more]