I’ve been writing about products in NEW MOBILITY for nine years. Each entry is a challenge, not from a writing or content perspective, but from a relevancy one. Innovations should be new, cutting edge. However, that can be difficult to do in the mobility industry. Mobility manufacturers understandably tend to hold new products intensely close to their chests until public release because regulatory processes can make giving out product information and firm launch dates challenging. This makes it tough for journalists like me — although I have my connections — to get true scoops for rightfully tech-hungry readers like you.

But, not this article, my friends! I have two products so hot that they’re almost certainly still in the oven as you read this.

Getting AMP’d Over Power Assist

Power assist systems for ultralight manual wheelchairs have been around for almost two decades in various incarnations. Most, however, worked under the same principle: You give the propulsion wheels a push, the power assist technology engages and gives a much-needed boost. This helps tremendously with fatigue over distance, as well as with strength limitations on varied terrain. Nevertheless, they had the same drawback: They still required some level of propulsion, which meant having some notable strength, range of motion and coordination. This is where Method Mobility’s forthcoming AMP (assistive manual power) comes in.

Mobility Tech

The AMP may be the easiest power assist device yet.

The AMP takes the propulsion factor out of power assist, and truly does the work for you. The AMP consists of a power base with two drive wheels that sit underneath your rigid or folding manual chair. Extending from the power base is a wheel cradle on each side to seat your push wheels. The wheel cradles rotate on an arm between forward, center and back. To dock to the AMP, once the arms are adjusted to the overall width of your chair, you simply back into the cradles, rotating them to center, which lifts your rear wheels slightly off the ground.

Now, here’s the wild part, as the AMP is activated, the wheelchair’s rear wheels are literally self-balancing over the AMP power base, with the cradle arms providing input. Think about how with a Segway or child’s balancing board, you lean for directional propulsion. With the wheelchair balancing on the AMP power base, a slight forward movement of the hand rim tells it to go forward, a slight rearward pull returns to stop, and a slight rearward pull engages reverse, all by tilting the cradle arms. To steer, traditional push-pull movements are used. What’s vital to note is that there aren’t actual push strokes involved, just very fine, almost effortless hand movements. The elimination of push strokes, as well as programmability from very fine hand input movements to larger motor skill movements, allows use by the widest range of ability levels.

The AMP has a top speed of 8 mph, a range of 8 to 16 miles based on terrain and a recharge of two hours. Bluetooth technology connects the user to the system.

Are you ready to grab one of your own? At present, the AMP is due to launch sometime in 2019. Its innovators are two ex-Quickie development guys who know their way around these projects, so they’re finishing up the legal and regulatory processes. However, they do state that when released, the AMP will be notably less costly than existing systems. Keep an eye on their website and Facebook for updates!

Truly Live, Wireless, Power Chair Diagnostics Via the Cloud

Interactive Assist will be free for users of compatible devices.

Interactive Assist will be free for users of compatible devices.

Have you ever had an issue with your power chair, where you thought, I wish my provider could see this right now, and I could avoid waiting for a service call? Or maybe you simply wondered what a symbol on your hand control screen meant? Well, Quantum Rehab is presently rolling out Interactive Assist, the first live, cloud-based system where a provider can view and adjust some settings on a user’s power chair remotely.

The way Interactive Assist works is that Quantum has invested in its own secure, regulatory-compliant cloud. The user downloads an Android or iOS app onto their phone, and then the power chair and phone link via Bluetooth, using the cloud to connect live with the provider. The provider then views all aspects of the power chair for troubleshooting, simple adjustments or to address user concerns. Where Interactive Assist excels is in the area of full, live data, with the capability to make some system alterations. There are other apps on the market for data collection and analysis, but none that give a live, interactive service capability.
Quantum’s Interactive Assist is free to users with compatible power chairs.

A Tradeoff

Alas, we find ourselves in a Catch-22. If I share innovations that are already on market, you can get them, but they’re not the freshest of the fresh. However, if I share with you the freshest of the fresh, you can’t get them yet! To warp a cliché, I’ll leave you with a question to ponder on your own. What’s better: one innovation in the hand or two in the bush?

• Method Mobility, methodmobility.com; facebook.com/MyChairPower
• Quantum Rehab, quantumrehab.com; 833/745-3835

NM discloses author-product relationships when appropriate. Accordingly, Mark E. Smith is the general manager of public relations for Pride Mobility/Quantum Rehab.