Saturday, November 13, 2010

Texas man patents exercise platform for wheelchair users

From KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas:

AUSTIN -- There are 1.7 million Americans confined to wheelchairs, a physical condition that brings with it risks of medical complications such as diabetes and obesity. It also creates a problem of restricted opportunities for exercise, but that could change thanks to an invention developed in Austiin.

Christopher Stanford has been in a wheelchair for 20 years, since he retired as an Air Force captain due to spinal problems. He went on to earn a bio-medical engineering degree.

For years Stanford has worked in his garage workshop on a stationary platform that would offer wheelchair users limitless exercise.

"I can go to a Gold's Gym -- there are 24 exercise platforms they (others) can use, from treadmills to other devices. There's nothing for wheelchair users. I want them to have some of the fun and activity that a walking person would have," Stanford explained.

The user backs onto Stanford's device, which lifts the chair off the ground. From there the platform enables virtual, but very real, 360-degree action.

Stanford said he couldn't have done it without the help of some 20 University of Texas and Texas State engineering students.

"They had some great ideas that I didn't even think about. They also bring expertise that I don't have," he said.

The platform's smart sensor can also interface with video game systems like wii and Playstation to enhance the experience. Those visual images and the games that can be played make the play and exercise limitless.

"I'm looking at 'exer-tainment,' I call it. I want people to exercise," Stanford said.

Stanford has paid for this out of his own pocket, and obtained a patent on his eighth prototype. He has sold one platform so far, and has other interested buyers. He said he's ready to go commercial, but adds that having business partners or investors would help him accomplish that.