Japanese Car making firm Toyota is to team up with Dean Kamen, the Segway inventor to reboot the iBot, a stair climbing wheelchair first released to the public 15 years ago but discontinued in 2009.
The iBot was a revolutionary new invention in 2001 designed to transform the lives of wheelchair users. The inventor was Dean Kamen and his company DEKA. With the ability to climb up and descend stairs, raise the user up to be at eye level with a standing human and ability to cross tougher terrain surfaces like thick grass or sand, the iBot was a leap forward into a brave new world of wheelchairs.
Easy access to the second floor, or just having a face to face conversation with another adult were things that were impossible before Kamen introduced his groundbreaking chair. However, the technology required to make the chair meant that prices started at a cool $25000, meaning mass-market infiltration was always unlikely and ultimately production ceased in 2009.
Toyota joins the party
Over the weekend it was announced that seven years later we are seeing a reboot with Toyota joining forces with Kamen and DEKA to reintroduce the iBot to the market. With the continuing aging of both US and especially Japanese populations, it is products like these that will become more and more important as we move towards the second half the twenty-first century.
Kamen certainly always wanted the chair to make a comeback and now it looks like his wish is coming true. He stated in a video released by Toyota heralding the products relaunch, “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.”
Working together they are looking to launch the iBot 2.0 and a photo has been released of what it will look like. It still appears remarkably similar to the original but with a slightly slimmer look, and of course with the advantage of a further 15 years of technological advances.
It still has all the old features of the original including the stair climbing and being able to travel with the occupant sat at adult standing height while moving at a comfortable walking pace. Potential customers will hope this new technology also comes at a more affordable price too although there has still been no announcement regarding the target price!
Kamen added on the new partnership, “Toyota as a company, they share the same vision as we at DEKA have, and because we share a vision about how mobility should be available to people with every kind of need we are proud to say that we are now getting the full support of the Toyota company and we thank Toyota for helping us turn our dream into a reality.”
The deal also allows Toyota to license other DEKA technologies that can be used for Toyota’s own proprietary products. Of most interest will be the technology focusing on balance, which the Japanese manufacturer says will be used in the fields of rehabilitation therapy and other projects. They remain a big investor within the robotic helper space and this technology is likely to compliment that research and development.