Derby

Derby student invents chair with walking legs

A University of Derby student has created a prototype of a walking chair.

Martin Harris hopes the battery-powered device, an alternative to the wheelchair, will give people with mobility issues more freedom.

The 21-year-old product design student believes the invention has advantages over wheelchairs, which are often restricted to paths.

He said: "This can work either indoors or outdoors - a leg can simply pick itself up and step over an obstacle."

The legs underneath the seat are made up of 216 pieces bolted together.

The machine can travel at up to 6.4 km/h (4 mph) - the maximum allowed for battery-powered wheelchairs - and can be steered using a joystick in the chair's arm.

According to Mr Harris, the chair can negotiate almost any surface - including dirt, sand, grass, carpet and polished floors - and can tackle moderate slopes.

Six pairs of legs are linked together and driven by two conventional wheelchair motors.

Image caption The walking mechanism was inspired by Theo Jansen's Strandbeest

Mr Harris said he took his inspiration from Dutch artist and engineer Theo Jansen, famous for creating skeletons and sculptures that can walk on beaches.

He said: "The mechanism has been developed by [Jansen] over quite a few years and I've chosen to use it in a wheelchair to provide a practical purpose for it.

"It would have some potential as a wheelchair but I think it has other potential uses on a larger scale, such as agricultural machinery or maybe military vehicles."

The student said he would be happy to see the walking chair sold commercially but insisted it needs more development work.

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