When it was first introduced by Segway inventor Dean Kamen back in the early 2000's, the iBOT stair-climbing wheelchair gave greater vertical independence to people with disabilities. But not enough people apparently, as lackluster sales meant the wheelchair was discontinued in 2009. But now Toyota has teamed up with Kamen's company DEKA to gear the iBOT up for action once again.
While the ability to climb stairs was the wheelchair's most revolutionary function, the iBOT was no one trick pony. With a clever combination of electronics, sensors and software, it allowed users to elevate themselves to the level of a standing person to hold eye-to-eye conversations, and also negotiate different kinds of terrain.
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Back when the original iBOT started doing the rounds, Apple's iPod had just arrived and Facebook wouldn't launch for another couple of years. It's not yet clear how 15 years of technological advancement will shape the new generation of iBOT wheelchairs, but with Toyota also onboard we're anticipating a few steps forward.
"Toyota and DEKA share the same vision of making mobility available to people of every kind of ability," says Dean Kamen. "We are excited about this new relationship and excited about what it means for making that dream a reality."
You can hear from Kamen in the video below.