A new wheelchair from the inventor of the Steadicam

A new wheelchair from the inventor of the Steadicam

A new wheelchair from the inventor of the Steadicam

When watching TV or movies, smooth, stable shots are a matter of course. They somehow move quickly across the floor without any jolts or dizziness.

As it turns out, viewers can thank Garrett Brown and his groundbreaking invention, the Steadicam, for these shots.

The Steadicam is a lightweight, handheld stabilizer that gives camera operators a steady hand when they’re on the move to capture shots like Sylvester Stallone’s character, Rocky, running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Now a standard issue, the Steadicam has evolved beyond film. There is a sky camera, a flight camera and a dive camera.

We met Brown five years ago, on a job for CBS Sunday Morning, just before he retired. Now he’s back with a new invention that helps people with disabilities move with the same fluidity as his Steadicam.

He calls his latest invention Zeen.


“What do we need? We need a comfortable chair,” Brown told CBS Saturday Morning co-host Michelle Miller. “We don’t have to leave this chair to move. But hey, let’s get to our feet without the whine of the engines and the slow vvvvvv– you know, let’s get to our feet like a baby.”

The 80-year-old came up with the idea a decade ago while visiting his then 97-year-old dad in care facilities.

“I was watching his buddies,” Brown said. “It seemed to me that something big was missing between walkers and wheelchairs. Once you’re confined to a wheelchair, your feet aren’t particularly on the ground. You are not erect. Being upright is good for your heart, your bone density, your- – your limbic system, your digestive system. And it is especially valuable for your mental well-being. Being around other people is one of the things we hear the most about that they love this machine.

Garrett Brown

It took Brown and a small team of engineers about a decade to invent and tinker to get the machine right. Starting with the prototypes, some of which now look quite ridiculous to Brown.

“I took an old walker and welded this saddle to it to see what it felt like,” Brown said. “You have to be ready to look pretty goofy and silly when you’re testing prototypes of machines that work with humans.”

He began selling them at health conventions, AARP conferences, wherever he could reach people with limited mobility. He has produced about 100 Zeens so far.

It is already attracting customers such as Anomie Fatale, who relied heavily on her electric wheelchair and walker.

“With the rollator, there’s absolutely no support,” said Fatale. “All of my energy when using it requires focusing on not falling, which is why I can’t even use the rollator without assistance.”

Anomie Fatale tries out Zeen

On the day of our visit, she tried out her new Zeen.

“Not being able to sit and stand like that,” said Fatale, “brings back something you’ve lost that you miss every day.”

Brown noted the virtues of Zeen.

“The moment we give it to you, A. degree of freedom and B. autonomy. And that’s the important word,” Brown said. “When you’re in it and you’re safe, you’re on your own.”

It has almost become a higher calling. This became even more evident last fall when Brown traveled to Rome to make a special delivery.

“I was watching a video report about Pope Francis struggling with mobility,” Brown said. “I thought, ‘He could use one of these things.’

The letter he wrote must have been persuasive.

“It went around the Vatican,” Brown said. “And we’ve been verified. And didn’t we receive a wonderful letter saying, “Yes, we accept. Thank you very much. “

“And we heard later that she was at his apartment. So this story is evolving,” Brown continued. “No official citation, but you know, if… if it’s useful to Pope Francis, that would be really satisfying.”

Brown hopes to reach out to anyone who might benefit from Zeen that his new invention is here to help.

“Inventing is what we do to ensure a good life,” Brown said. “Inventing life is imagining what you want, which is what is missing and what you need to do to get it.”

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