Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Reinventing the wheel -- new high tech Morph Wheels could be revolutionary

In the age of the smartphone, we expect all our possessions to be sleek, compact and mobile. It's unsurprising, then, that many of the items we love -- from cars to tablets -- have received the folding treatment. <a href='http://edition.cnn.com/TECH/specials/blueprint'>Blueprint </a>takes a look at the foldable technology of the future, starting with the Morph folding wheel. <i>Gallery by Matthew Ponsford</i> In the age of the smartphone, we expect all our possessions to be sleek, compact and mobile. It's unsurprising, then, that many of the items we love -- from cars to tablets -- have received the folding treatment. Blueprint takes a look at the foldable technology of the future, starting with the Morph folding wheel. Gallery by Matthew Ponsford
HIDE CAPTION
To have and to fold
The folding wheel
The folding wheel
The folding wheel
The folding tablet
The folding drone
The folding e-bike
The folding airplane
The folding car
Folding... anything?
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • London-based designer invents foldable wheel for wheelchair users
  • Morph wheel can compress to almost to almost half its original width
  • Invention could provide greater flexibility when traveling by train, car or airplane
  • Foldable wheel received design award from the London Design Museum

(CNN) -- According to popular wisdom, attempting to reinvent the wheel is the ultimate in design folly. But this didn't stop object designer Duncan Fitzsimmons from giving it a go.

When he sat down at his desk to begin work on the Morph Wheel, Fitzsimmons took on the design challenge -- and the results might just turn out to be revolutionary. In both senses of the word.

The Morph is a detachable wheelchair wheel that can compress to around half of its original width. It is designed to provide greater flexibility and mobility to the estimated 65 million people around the world who need a wheelchair.

The folding wheel was originally created as a folding bicycle wheel by Fitzsimmons when he was a graduate student at the Royal College of Arts in London. But calls from the wheelchair community suggested to him that the design would possibly be more useful to wheelchair users.

Can foldable wheels transforms mobility?

Read: The origami kayak and 9 other great folding vehicles

"When people say 'is this reinventing the wheel?', that's a phrase that everyone knows," Fitzsimmons says, "but it's really redesigning the wheel to make it just a little bit better. That's really what you're trying to do when you're designing any product."

The main advantage of the Morph, the designer says, is that it can fit into small spaces, allowing wheelchair users greater flexibility when traveling by car, train or airplane.

"This project started out by looking at the problems caused by large wheels if you're looking at folding bicycles, or the space needed for a folding wheelchair," says Fitzsimmons.

"Having a small wheel or a large wheel dictates the entire design of the wheelchair and what you can do with it. If you can fold a big wheel up into a smaller space, then suddenly for the first time you can get the best of both worlds. You can have a wheelchair that has all the advantages of having a large wheel, but can also be stored into a much smaller space."

Read: Earthquake-proof table uses geometry to save lives

David Constantine co-founder of Motivation, a charity that aims to help people with mobility impairments, says that in his view the Morph wheel could be useful in both developed countries and the developing world.

"I can see all kinds of uses for this," says Constantine, "certainly in the context of the US and more developed countries ... car boots, airplane lockers, any sort of small space you might want to pack a small chair into.

"Not everybody uses a chair every day, so if it has got quick-release wheels and you fold the chair up and you fold these down flat storage is easy for people who don't use a wheelchair all the time.

"In the context I work in developing countries, if it's low-cost enough, people often live in one room with the whole families, so they often want a folding wheelchair just to keep it out of the way when they're either in bed or sat on the floor cooking, and so again, something that packs down as small as this would be extremely useful."

The Morph wheel has received awards around the world, including the transport category at the London Design Museum design of the year awards 2013, and the 2013 Popular Science Best of What's New award in the Health category.

Morph Wheels are available online from Maddak.

Andrew Stewart and Matthew Ponsford contributed to this article

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Liquidity lightbulbs at the Milan Furniture Show 2012
See the full coverage of CNN's Blueprint -- a new series exploring the very latest design and technology trends.
December 9, 2013 -- Updated 1901 GMT (0301 HKT)
A swat team assess risk before raiding a building
A baseball-sized shock absorbent camera that can be thrown into a disaster zone to assess risks posed to rescuers.
November 11, 2013 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Astronauts wash and drink from the same continuously recycled source for years. So why do we not do the same on Earth?
October 25, 2013 -- Updated 0946 GMT (1746 HKT)
The Titan Arm
A new strap-on external bicep called the Titan Arm allows humans to lift very heavy objects by giving them instant super strength.
October 11, 2013 -- Updated 1256 GMT (2056 HKT)
See the origami kayak take shape in our 40-second time lapse video.
September 27, 2013 -- Updated 1335 GMT (2135 HKT)
The Seaboard is a musical instrument like a keyboard that allows you to bend the pitch and volume of each note.
The 'Seaboard keyboard' is a tech forward interpretation of the piano, that reimagines what a keyboard can do.
September 19, 2013 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Phonebloks smartphone
What if you could build your own smartphone that would last you for the rest of your life?
September 17, 2013 -- Updated 0849 GMT (1649 HKT)
3D printed gun
Why did the Victoria and Albert Museum in London acquire two models of the world's first 3D-printed gun?
September 13, 2013 -- Updated 1009 GMT (1809 HKT)
It looks like a regular bike light, but one day Emily Brooke's Blaze light could save your life.
September 10, 2013 -- Updated 1001 GMT (1801 HKT)
After months of hype and speculation, the Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch arrived this week with a bang... followed by a whimper.
September 2, 2013 -- Updated 1616 GMT (0016 HKT)
ARMAR is the ultimate sous chef. He'll bring you ingredients from the fridge and after you've made lots of mess he'll load the dishwasher and clean the surfaces. He's just one of a growing army of robo-chefs that are shaping the future of our kitchens.
Your cooking partner is a robot, your fridge can talk, and your plate is your own personal dietician. This is the kitchen of the future
August 21, 2013 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Sound on Intution: sensors attach to your hands,feet and heart to produce music that responds to movement
August 15, 2013 -- Updated 1027 GMT (1827 HKT)
Not only did Unger have to contend with the typical design challenges of aesthetics and manufacturability, she also needed to become an expert in the reproductive habits of flies.
In 2050, when nine billion people are living on Earth, will high-protein insects be a part of our staple diet?
August 13, 2013 -- Updated 1301 GMT (2101 HKT)
He's invented breathable food, flavor clouds and olfactory telephones. Now David Edwards is bringing edible food-packaging to the table.
August 13, 2013 -- Updated 1031 GMT (1831 HKT)
ASAP is a solar-powered life-saving machine that's cheaper, greener and more efficient than a traditional Jet Ski
August 5, 2013 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
Transparent dresses, vacuum shoes, shark-proof wetsuits and more. We imagine a day in the life of a wearable technology user in the year 2015.
July 29, 2013 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Europe spends $13 billion annually on fueling street lights. With a new system called 'Tvilight', streetlamps can sense the arrival of a person.
August 5, 2013 -- Updated 0919 GMT (1719 HKT)
The earthquake-proof table can combat a ton of falling debris and provides reliable protection for people taking shelter during an earthquake
ADVERTISEMENT