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Will the Whill Hi-Tech Wheelchair Sell?

A Japanese startup is betting that an aging population of tech savvy first adopters will want their super-wheelchair

3 min read
Will the Whill Hi-Tech Wheelchair Sell?
Whill To Rule: A wheelchair designed with techies in mind can make tight maneuvers.
Photo: Whill

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.

[shortcode ieee-pullquote quote="The intent is to "create an image that, rather than a chair for the disabled, this is stylish transportation"" float="left" expand=1]

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.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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