Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.
Ogo with Brian Galloway | ogotechnology.com
Derek Daniel’s podcast Life After Sight Loss Radio | LifeAfterSightLoss.com
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BRIAN GALLOWAY: Hi, this is Brian Galloway, and I’m the Midwest United States representative of Ogo Technology, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.
WADE WINGLER: Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.
Welcome to episode number 333 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on October 13, 2017.
Today I am going to have an extended conversation with a gentleman named Brian Galloway about a new product called Ogo. I saw some videos about this and thought this looks like a Segway that’s black and green and looks cool and is doing some stuff different about controlling this mobility device without using hands. I was fascinated and surprised that he actually is local and we have some people in common.
Also we talk about another podcast called Life After Sight Loss radio.
We hope you’ll check out our website at www.eastersealstech.com, give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124, or hit us up on Twitter at INDATA Project.
Have you ever heard of a smart thermometer you don’t even have to touch? Have you heard of glasses that help people who are colorblind see colors for the first time? Have you heard of a mouse that you can control a computer with your chin? If any of these topics sound interesting to you, you need to be a listener of Accessibility Minute. Accessibility Minute is just that, a minute, once a week, hosted by our own Laura Metcalf, and she covers all kinds of new and interesting things in the world of assistive technology in just about a minute every Friday. Head on over to AccessibilityMinute.com or wherever you get your podcast.
WADE WINGLER: Listen to this.
SPEAKER: Number two today is audio description for movies and TV. Some of you might be saying, “That hasn’t changed my life like screen readers or modifiers or even voice recognition. Why would this be number two?” Here is why I put it at number two –
WADE WINGLER: One of the reasons I do a podcast is that I really like to listen to podcasts myself pure in fact, that’s how I got started. Every once in a while, we run across a podcast here at the INDATA Project that we think is interesting. Derek Daniel is a friend of the show is somebody we’ve had on the show before. He is doing a new podcast called Life After Sight Loss Radio. It includes all kinds of good stuff about his journey in dealing with vision loss. He also has an episode recently where he talks about the technology that has changed the life of the VIP, visually impaired person. If you are looking for the podcast that has to do with technology and vision and a good guy to listen to, check out his show, LifeAfterSightLoss.com. I’ll stick a link in the show notes.
Recently I was on Facebook, and a good friend of mine was trying out an interesting looking mobility device. It kind of looks to me like a black and green Segway, really cool. It was called Ogo, and I did research on it and found out that there is a gentleman who lives just very close to me here in Indiana. He and I have somebody in common. I know his mom. I thought I needed to have Brian Kelly on the show. He is the Midwest representative for Ogo technology and has agreed to be on our show today. Welcome. How is your mom?
BRIAN GALLOWAY: My mom is great. Thank you so much for asking.
WADE WINGLER: You and I have met, but it’s been a while. Tell our audience a little bit about you and yourself and why you became interested in something like Ogo before you became formally involved with the company.
BRIAN GALLOWAY: My wife and family and I were living overseas in the Middle East and Qatar about six years ago. I was in a motorbike accident, and I had a spinal cord injury, a T10, so I’m paraplegic below my waist. I became a wheelchair user at 40 years old. I spent all my life being able to use my legs, and all of the sudden not being able to, that’s a life changer for anyone to imagine. Let alone experience.
I came back to the United States, went through my rehabilitation in Chicago, and then tried to return to Qatar. Mobility was difficult. There was just a lot of sidewalks without ramps. Medical supplies were difficult for me to get. We went ahead and moved back to the United States in early 2013. I basically realized how much I was relying on different things and people to get around. Obviously I had to have a wheelchair even to get from a bedroom to my bathroom. I had to have friends and family members give me car right everywhere. That started me down this whole path of how my going to be able to get around on my own.
My first step was to start driving again, which I learned how to drive with hand controls and have been doing so for four years. As time went along, I got back into sports. I started my own wheelchair lacrosse team here in Indiana. That was a great thing. Then I started really getting active in my children’s sports. Getting across grass, gravel, dirt in a wheelchair just became so taxing on me. At the end of the day, I was spent. I really wanted to find out a way to make life easier. I can tell you, life in a wheelchair is hard enough.
I started looking around, doing research. I saw a lot of different things. I tested some different products and devices. About a year and half ago, I stumbled across Ogo. Going back, I don’t remember how I actually found it. I looked at it and thought it was a cool looking device. I started doing my research, following things along. They had a Facebook page like a lot of companies out there. I started watching and paying attention to what was going on. I thought the technology of it was fantastic. Because I had seen things like the action track wheelchair which looks like a tank – always the serve the purpose but when you’re out trying to help little kids play lacrosse will help teenagers play soccer, getting in a big tank doesn’t help with speed.
Watching how Ogo progressed through the different levels as it was building up towards their phase one initial model, the different things that were coming out were fantastic. I saw it as a device that was head and shoulders above everything else out there that I had seen. I couldn’t wait to get involved. I reached out to the company. They did a tour around the United States, brought the Ogo and let people try it. I tried it and was hooked and that’s how I got started.
WADE WINGLER: Tell me about how Ogo came about and how it’s different than other mobility devices and similar technologies.
BRIAN GALLOWAY: Ogo is a company based in New Zealand. There are these two amazing gentlemen, Marcus and Kevin. Marcus is in a wheelchair and was a professor at a local university. I believe Kevin’s daughters had Marcus as a professor. They found out they both had a love of field archery. Kevin noticed how much Marcus struggled just to get out to the areas where they wanted to have a basic activity. That’s what started it. Kevin’s being a production engineer obviously helped. Having that kind of brain, the idea started rolling through his head. It was the idea of a Segway and how to make it better. The whole thing started it.
The initial model was big and wide and wouldn’t have fit through a normal door. I’m not even sure it would fit in the back of the van. Over time, it got narrower, more streamlined, but the idea behind it was simply somebody helping a friend so that they could both go out and enjoy something together. That back story spoke to me. There are a lot of things I had done previously that I might not be able to do anymore, but there are new activities now that I would like to do but struggle with because of mobility. The story, the device, the idea behind it is what brought me to it.
WADE WINGLER: That’s fascinating stuff. Tell me a little bit about the underlying technology. Is it like a Segway? Does it use that gyroscope technology? What is going on?
BRIAN GALLOWAY: It is unique. It is built on the Segway powerbase. But a lot of the — what they call seated Segways. There are lots of seated Segways on the market. The seated Segways that are out there, a lot of them are pulled on, fixed seat devices. You essentially get on them. They don’t have added redundancies or stopping power like the Ogo has. Like I said, it’s built on the Segway powerbase: the wheels, tires, and lithium ion batteries that power it. But the steering column and some of the wheel guards are removed.
What has happened is the chassis that is built onto the powerbase turns – the easiest way to explain it is a turn in the seat into a joystick. Essentially by leaning forward, back, side to side, will propel it turn, propel forward, stop, or even reverse the Ogo completely with the user’s body and not having to – like other power wheelchairs where you have to use a joystick to move, that is the main basis of how the Ogo is operated.
WADE WINGLER: What’s the user experience? That has to be different from wheelchairs or other devices like it.
BRIAN GALLOWAY: Picture a manual wheelchair. It is a four wheeled device, the two larger wheels that help propel, the smaller wheels in front for balance. Your proportion is all upper body with the motion of your arm. With Ogo, you are on a self balancing Segway platform that does not have any front wheels. You are essentially on two wheels all the time. The propulsion allows you to go hands-free. Anytime that you want to move in one direction or another, it is simply leaning your body forward or moving your hips forward. Depending on how much mobility you have with your lower body, it does have injection molded handgrips so if someone doesn’t have as much core strength or core stability, you can actually hold on and lean onto the armed guards to move side to side as well. The chassis is made out of steel and the body is high-impact polyethylene. You have something that is strong, can take a hit. It can get up to 10 miles an hour. With the self balancing and the way it is built, and like I mentioned the added redundancies, the stopping power, even getting up to 12 miles an hour, and being able to lean back and come to a complete stop within a short distance. No other device has that.
WADE WINGLER: You can really stand on the brakes?
BRIAN GALLOWAY: You really can, so to speak. For me, I feel the stability. It does have different feelings for me. Going over a small lip or curb, an inch or two high, I lean back and lift my front wheels up and pop over it. With Ogo, you are powering through it. You are leaning through it, and the Ogo, because it is self balancing, will go right up over the lip on its own. These are expanse is definitely different. I could talk more all the time about the human joystick is essentially what you become. That in and of itself becomes an amazing way to control something where you don’t have to use her arms all the time and can be able to go out and around and not have to struggle to get up a ramp or just cover a long distance and wear yourself out.
WADE WINGLER: That leads me to a couple of questions. We talked a little bit about trunk support or core strengths and those kinds of things. Are there people for whom Ogo isn’t a good option because of those?
BRIAN GALLOWAY: The Ogo can’t appeal to multiple markets of people: wheelchair users, seniors, commuters, even tour companies, possibly down the line sports. Speaking from experience with regard to being a wheelchair user, there have been people who have a higher level entry, somebody that is a C-level injury, a quadriplegic, has limited arm strength, it would be a lot with regards to transferring to and from the device that might struggle. It’s one of those things where you have to try it out on your own.
I have found with regards to my level of injury, I have the strength and stability to be able to operate the Ogo with no hands. I don’t need to hold onto the handgrips. If I’m going full speed and had to come to a complete stop, every once in a while I will reach down and grab onto it just for the added safety feeling. I don’t think it’s necessarily a replacement for a power wheelchair in a sense. This is a personal mobility device so you have to look at it from the standpoint that it has a similar classification of a Segway or mobility scooter. Like I mentioned, my being in a wheelchair, my manual wheelchair being my main mode of mobility, this is something that is easy. The learning curve is a very short to be able to add this to my arsenal of mobility devices to get around.
WADE WINGLER: That makes a ton of sense. You talked kind of jokingly that you’ve turned yourself into a human joystick with the way this technology works. What was the learning curve for you? You said there were some differences. How long were you in the device before you don’t very comfortable with it?
BRIAN GALLOWAY: The first time I was on it was when they made a tour around the United States. I looked out in the sense that I was one of the only people from my hour block. I got to spend about 45 minutes in the chair which was fantastic. I would say I went to the normal steps. Kevin would walk me through the steps, this is how it is forward, how it stops, side to side, the basic ideas. Then we did some S turns and things like that to start getting the feel for it. Kevin mentioned after about 15 minutes in, he said you are not going to have any problems with this. You are a natural at this. By the time I was no more than half an hour in, I was at a park in Chicago near Navy pier. I was heading down the sidewalks at full speed.
There are four settings to the Ogo. There is the stop setting, which has four arms that go down onto the ground and balanced it so you’re able to safely transfer on and off the device. You have what I call snail mode, which is essentially there is a joystick on the device that allows you to do really small movements. If you think about getting on a train or on a bus, there is a small area where you need to move forward and back to get yourself into a spot. Using the joystick might give you those tiny movements that you need as opposed to making a bigger movement. Then there is tortoise mode and hare mode. Tortoise mode would be, I’m out for a stroll walking down the boardwalk with my wife and I want to do a nice pace. Hare mode is full on speed and I can get on to 12 miles an hour and motor along. I was able to get up to full speed just in the first session I ever tried it. Everybody else’s learning curve will be different, but for someone who has been in a manual wheelchair for basically five years after spending 40 years of not in one, I see half an hour as not too bad of a learning curve.
WADE WINGLER: I know there is a big off-road component and I also know there is unique stuff about how you put this Ogo in and out of the car to transport. Can you talk to me about those?
BRIAN GALLOWAY: With regards to off-road, the normal tires that go on it will allow you to go over pretty much most terrain, gravel, dirt, grass, things like that. I’m able to go over most terrain with no problem. Off-road allows beach, snow, or areas, may be going uphill or downhill, mountain biking in a sense. Off-road allows you to expand. For me, going to a beach is a great activity. We love going on vacations so being able to put the bigger tires on and go out on the beach, I now have completely got rid of the need for a beach wheelchair. Before, I would get in it, somebody would push me on the beach, and I would sit on there. Now all you do is a couple of turns of a ratchet and I can put bigger tires on. I can move around and be out there on the beach with my kids and not have to sit and watch. It’s a huge extra component that is available which is been a great thing.
WADE WINGLER: Getting it to the beach, how do you get it to the car and how does that look like from the van?
BRIAN GALLOWAY: I have a minivan with a ramp. As I mentioned the different settings, you can either put it in joystick mode, or what I do is put it in Hare mode and basically push the seat forward. I’m not sitting in the device, obviously. I’m sitting in my wheelchair but I’m able to push the seat forward as I’m leaning on it and it is moving into my van. That’s one way I can do it.
I don’t know if there is a term for it. I know you’ve seen the baskets that fit onto a hitch. It’s got a ramp. I’ve seen a lot of mobility scooters where you have a ramp and it comes on the back of it, and you for the ramp up and tie it down. That’s made it easier because my van is a little bit higher. I’m able to load it up right up onto a scooter platform on the back of my van, and I bungee it down and I’m able to take it anywhere with me. I put the extra tires in the back of my van and I’m able to take it anywhere I need to go.
It is almost 150 pounds so obviously picking it up and lifting it into the van would require some assistance. You definitely need a ramp or something on the back of the scooter to be able to transport it.
WADE WINGLER: What about cost and availability? Does insurance cover this kind of thing?
BRIAN GALLOWAY: The list price is $16,995. I have not gone to the point where I have had to contact my customers insurance. We have not gone through insurance with it. I can’t speak from experience. I did not reach out to my insurance company about it because it is not listed as a wheelchair. It is a personal mobility device and not classified as a wheelchair, per the FDA. That led me down the direction of not applying for a through my insurance. But that is something we have represented as agents all throughout the world, you can contact to work through to help you get your Ogo and also be able to work with you with regard to payments. I know there are a lot of local programs. Easter Seals crossroads, for example, has a loan program for people that aren’t able to raise funds or have them personally.
Lots of avenues we could go down. It just about custom tailoring each one to the specific person.
WADE WINGLER: We are out of time for the interview today, but before we wrap up, if people want to learn more about Ogo, if they want to reach out and contact you or get a hold of you, how would they do that?
BRIAN GALLOWAY: The company website is Ogotechnology.com. There is a page on the website where you will see “Find an Agent.” If you click on that, it will give you a map of agents throughout the world that you would be able to contact about being able to order and then receive your Ogo. Me personally, I’m based in Indiana in the Midwest. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at Ogo Midwest, or you can find me on the website.
WADE WINGLER: Brian Galloway is the US Midwest agent for Ogo technology and has been our guest today. Thanks for being on the show.
BRIAN GALLOWAY: thank you so much for having me.
WADE WINGLER: Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to www.EasterSealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this plus much more over at AccessibilityChannel.com. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.
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