Adir under the wedding canopy with his bride, Liat. (photo from UPnRIDE)
Forty days before his marriage, a wheelchair-bound Israeli man named Adir wrote to UPnRIDE Robotics, sharing his dream to stand under the chuppah with his bride, Liat. Chief executive officer Oren Tamari invited Adir to company headquarters in Yokne’am Illit to try the UPnRIDE 1.1 mobility device, now in transition from research-and-development to market.
“We saw he managed well with it, and we arranged for him to use the device during his wedding” on Nov. 12, Tamari told Israel21c.
The day after his wedding, Adir posted on UPnRIDE’s Facebook page: “Thank you all for [the] wonderful experience and magnificent night. Our chuppah was so amazing, people cried when [they] saw me standing and praying. My wife and I just want to say that you made our night as close as possible to perfection!!!”
UPnRIDE was invented by Amit Goffer, whose ReWalk robotic exoskeleton allows paraplegics to stand, walk, navigate steps and even run marathons. Goffer, who has a PhD in electrical and computer engineering, could not use ReWalk himself because he is a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down. So he and Tamari formed a new company to develop an upright mobility solution enabling any wheelchair-bound person – quadriplegics, paraplegics, people with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, ALS and traumatic brain injury – to recline, stand and navigate indoors and outdoors.
Jointed braces and harnessing straps provide support, while advanced motion technology and real-time computing ensure automatic balancing and stability on uneven terrain. Goffer said other types of standing wheelchairs can’t be used outdoors because of the danger of tipping over.
UPnRIDE is now raising funds, working toward U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance and doing usability studies with all kinds of wheelchair users. A major study has begun at the U.S. Veterans Health Administration’s Centre of Excellence in New York to determine the benefits for UPnRIDE users. Many health problems are associated with long-term wheelchair sitting, from muscle atrophy to cardiovascular disease.
Goffer, chief technology officer and president of the company, doesn’t yet have his own UPnRIDE because the sample models are for testing. He borrows one on weekends and for special events, such as his daughter’s wedding last July.
Like Adir, he was able to stand under the chuppah and with his family for photos.
“My son and middle daughter were already married years ago,” he said, “and it was a very different feeling at the wedding of my ‘baby’ because I was standing like the rest of the family. I was also able to mingle with guests as never before.”
Eventually, Goffer expects UPnRIDE to become his everyday wheelchair. “I enjoy it because I can stand and sit easily whenever I want; I don’t have to be moved and lifted by someone else. It can recline, too, so it’s better for napping or receiving medical treatment.”
The smart wheelchairs are to be manufactured in a northern Israel factory run by Sanmina, an American electronics manufacturing services provider. Tamari said the company plans to use proceeds from the current funding round for marketing, establishing mass production and developing advanced and new models.
Israel21c is a nonprofit educational foundation with a mission to focus media and public attention on the 21st-century Israel that exists beyond the conflict. For more, or to donate, visit israel21c.org.