You may not recognize the term “iBOT”, but odds are you’ve heard of the Segway. The balance-controlled, two-wheeled vehicle still isn’t a common sight even 14 years after its introduction in 2002, but you can sometimes see them used by security personnel in malls or airports and in a few cities or tourist spots. The Segway’s inventor, Dean Kamen, also conceived a revolutionary motorized wheelchair called the iBot, which was first tested in prototype form in 1999. The iBOT received FDA approval in 2003 and a few more models were developed, but it was never widely produced. That’s all about to change.
Dean Kamen’s DEKA Research and Development and Toyota Motor North America recently announced a joint effort to advance iBOT development to assist the disabled community. The iBOT is a motorized wheelchair that can switch from four to two wheels. It can go up and down stairs by itself and it can raise the person sitting in the iBOT from sitting height to about six feet high by converting to two-wheel mode. The device can travel across various terrain types in two-wheel mode thanks to its balancing technology, similar to that used in the Segway.
Toyota and DEKA announced the agreement at the Paralyzed Veterans of America’s 70th Annual Convention in Jacksonville, Florida. The intent is to add mobility and independence to a growing number of disabled people. Toyota has the rights to use the iBOT’s balancing technology for rehabilitative medicine and any other purposes. The end goal, shared by Toyota and DEKA alike, is to, “to help older adults and people with special needs live well and continue to contribute their talents and experience to the world.”