Tag Archives: customer needs

‘Personal Mobility’ Rocks the Sidewalks


A few months ago we wrote about an all-terrain wheelchair from Leveraged Freedom Chair. While decidedly low-tech, the low cost product offered amazing access to rough terrains around the world. This month, we continue to explore the changing world of personal mobility with a new product from Japanese company WHILL.

WHILL bills itself as a ‘personal mobility device’ in a very high-tech sort of way. Japanese car designers took on wheelchair design and totally reinvented it. WHILL is sturdy, comfortable, and innovative in every way. It starts with omni-directional wheels comprised of 24 small rollers – giving the rider 4-wheel drive and the ability to turn on a dime, moving forward, backward, and even sideways. With an ergonomic joystick control that fits in the palm of a hand, retractable armrests, and a motorized seat for getting in and out, the product appeals to the emotional aspect of mobility and boosts confidence. The sleek high-tech design is also operable from a smartphone app, controlling speed, direction, and other features from a Bluetooth wireless device.

The amazing chair isn’t cheap – it aims to be “the Tesla of sidewalks” and has a current price of $14,000. The battery-powered chair is capable of a more than 10 mile range and speeds of 5.5 mph. This is design that works – or as we say in marketing, form follows function.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Start by showing the video:


  1. Bring up the company’s Web site: http://whill.us/
  2. This product is not available in wide distribution yet and has no promotion. Discuss the various promotional tactics that can be used for launching the product.
  3. Have students come up with tactics and list all the tactics on the white board (ex: billboards, print, direct mail, etc.).
  4. Divide students into groups to work on this exercise.
  5. Have each team select three different tactics. For each tactic, explain why it was selected and how it will be used.
  6. Debrief by putting together the entire suggested lists on the white board. As a final step, have the entire class vote on the top three tactics to use.

Source: CNN Money, Manufacturing Business Technology

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All-Terrain Wheelchair


There are an estimated 40 million people in developing countries who need wheelchairs to get around for work and home. However, many of these people live in rural areas with rough terrain and have a low income. Standard wheelchairs are expensive and are not designed for rough terrain.

In a great case of innovation and design, engineers at MIT took on the problem of mobility by reworking a wheelchair design that had not been changed in more than 100 years. With the customer at the center of the design, the product requirements included a chair that cost less than $200, could navigate 5 kilometers/day of varied terrain, be usable indoors, and be repairable locally with standard bike parts. The result – a combination wheelchair and all-terrain trike. The product, Leveraged Freedom Chair, has a drivetrain made of inexpensive bike parts that are available even in remote rural areas.

View the video at TED Talks to learn how this revolutionary chair was designed and produced.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the process of innovation.
  2. Show the TED Talks video: https://www.ted.com/talks/amos_winter_the_cheap_all_terrain_wheelchair/transcript?language=en#t-588285
  3. View the company’s Web site: http://gogrit.org/
  4. Divide students into teams and have each team map the innovation process against the process used by the company.
  5. Have each team brainstorm on other products that could be reimagined and reengineered to meet social needs for people with disabilities.

Source: TED, National Geographic

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