Toyota is remaking the iBot, a stair-climbing wheelchair that was ahead of its time
The iBot motorized wheelchair was first unveiled back in 2001, but it still looks remarkably futuristic today. The device was created by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, and could climb stairs, raise users from sitting level to eye-height, and travel at a steady walking pace in this “standing” configuration. However, with prices starting at $25,000, the device was too expensive for the mainstream market and was eventually discontinued in 2009. Now, it’s making a comeback, with help from Toyota.
rebuilding the ibot with 15 years of advances
This weekend, the carmaker announced that it’s joining forces with Kamen’s company DEKA to “support mobility solutions for the disabled community.” This includes developing and launching the next generation of the iBot, with the company publishing a photo of an iBot 2.0 prototype. The device has the same basic layout as the original iBot, but is much slimmer, and Kamen says the new device will be “[enhanced] with 15 years of improvements in technology.” Hopefully that will mean a cheaper price too.
“As we’ve seen people enjoy the flexibility and the freedom and the independence that an iBot brings — and that no wheelchair can bring — we’ve known that we have to bring this technology to more people who need it around the world,” says Kamen.
As part of the agreement with DEKA, Toyota will be licensing balancing technologies from the company for its own products. The automaker says these will be used for “medical rehabilitative therapy and potentially other purposes.” Toyota has previously invested $1 billion in a research institute developing robotic helpers and related products, and it’s possible that the technology licensed from DEKA could feed into these ambitions as well.