According to Wired, the idea was the brainchild of an Israeli farmer who broke his pelvis but still wanted to work in the field. He began experimenting and came up with a way to combine shock absorbers and a wheel together in a way that worked on existing wheelchairs.
Softwheel developed the concept into two products – the Acrobat for wheelchairs and the Fluent for bicycles. Both designs use three shock absorbers that also function as spokes. According to an explanation on its website, usually the shocks are static. However, above a certain load, the center hub deflects around them to absorb bumps. Wired claims the production version will allow users to adjust the firmness or lock the spokes completely.
At the moment the company is focusing on just the two products, but there are future possible automotive applications. The company thinks the same concept could be applied to cars as well, but it admits to Wired that development could take a decade or more. The CEO even gave a presentation about the Softwheel to Daimler at an innovation meeting, though we've no word yet on where that might lead.
The Acrobat for wheelchairs goes on sale in the fourth quarter of this year for about $2,000 per pair. Scroll down to see demonstrations in two videos.