Not everyone with a spinal-cord injury or disease needs or wants a big wheelchair to get around, and the latest offering from WHILL is promising to give those people a more mobile, cheaper, lighter and smarter mobility device
By Andy Nemann
Not everyone with a spinal-cord injury or disease needs or wants a big wheelchair to get around, and the latest offering from WHILL is promising to give those people a more mobile, cheaper, lighter and smarter mobility device.
The WHILL model Ci is a powered personal mobility device that combines a modern design with advanced driving features such as onboard diagnostics, remote control capabilities, easy transport and the ability to roll over rough terrain. Debuting at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this month, the Ci is designed to be a better alternative to a scooter, and WHILL Vice President of Marketing and Sales Ted Fagenson says it’s not considered a wheelchair by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“We categorize it as a personal electric vehicle,” Fagenson says. “It drives like a Tesla, it feels like a Tesla, it has the handling of a Tesla, and it just makes people feel great about themselves.”
Like other WHILL products, the Ci features patented omni wheels that allow users to easily go over terrain such as wood chips, rocks, gravel, high grass and undulating terrain such as sidewalks that are a bit icy or broken. However, Fagenson says that while previous WHILL products require people to transport the devices in an accessible SUV or van, the Ci can easily be broken down into three pieces and stored in virtually any type of car.
Those are popular features, but keep in mind the Ci is making its first U.S. appearance at an electronics trade show, and what really helps set it apart from other such devices is the technology it packs on board. The model features remote control driving via a smartphone application (app), multiple driving modes to match a user’s riding style and a digital battery charge indicator to stem range anxiety, all enabled via Bluetooth. Fagenson says being able to drive the Ci via an app offers a big convenience.
“If you get fatigued or that type of thing, a caregiver can drive the Ci right next to you and control it,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of people who use it to get into bed, and then they want to drive the product remotely into the corner of the room. So there’s some great uses for the capability of it.”
A CES Innovation Award winner, the Ci also features audible diagnostics, so if the arm is up on the device, it’ll tell you that it can’t move without the arm being put back down. It also has a 3G modem and GPS capability, so a user can call WHILL if there’s an issue and the company can check the onboard diagnostics to try and fix the problem remotely.
When it comes to the basic specifications of the Ci, it features a lithium ion battery with a 10-mile range, it can travel up to 5 mph, and it needs five hours to recharge. Fagenson says a big issue with previous WHILL models was their roughly $10,000 cost, so the Ci is priced at around $4,000.
For more information, visit whill.us.