Japanese engineers develop flying chair

Posted by Scott Chanwater

It's much, much more fun being old in Japan. While we get boring old wheelchairs, they get flying ones.

Tsunesuke Furuta of the rehabilitation department at Japan's Kobe Gakuin University has designed a levitating chair for the elderly and for people with mobility problems.

Inspired by an arcade air hockey puck, the chair floats on a cushion of air like a hovercraft, supported by slow-moving jets of air which are trapped by the rubber rim.

It can handle a weight of up to 330 pounds, say its designers, moves backwards as well as forwards, and can take corners with ease.

Unfortunately, though, it can only hover a few inches off the ground, and gets a bit bogged down by carpets or tatami mats.

The chair can either be fitted with a chair similar to a car seat, or with a traditional Japanese zabuton cushion - a bit like a flying carpet.

You can see a rather nervous-looking old boy testing it out at a recent robot fair in Osaka in a video, here.

Furuta and his team say they are looking for partners to help produce the chair commercially.