A Japanese startup (WHILL) creates the wheelchair. 2.0

WHILL doesn’t call its product an “electric wheelchair.” Given how high-tech and maneuverable it is, the company prefers the term “personal mobility device.”

The vehicle is equipped with four-wheel drive, allowing it to negotiate rough surfaces and tackle bumps up to 7.5cm high. Each front wheel is made up of 24 small wheel-like parts capable of moving sideways, meaning the device can turn on a dime.

And it has brains to match its muscle: Integrated software lets users customize the acceleration, deceleration and maximum speed via a smartphone app.

CEO Satoshi Sugie said he decided to launch a startup after he met a wheelchair user who told him, “I gave up going to the store even just two blocks away because there’s a slope and cracks on the way.”

Sugie has a powerful team: Chief Technology Officer Muneaki Fukuoka is from Olympus and Chief Data Officer Junpei Naito from Sony. “We got together on the weekends to create new things, and WHILL is one of our projects,” Sugie said.

Next on WHILL’s agenda is breaking into European markets.

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