Urban Transport

Take two: Toyota rebuilds stair-conquering iBOT wheelchair

Take two: Toyota rebuilds stai...
The original iBOT stair-climbing wheelchair was a life-changing mobility device for people with disabilities
The original iBOT stair-climbing wheelchair was a life-changing mobility device for people with disabilities
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The original iBOT stair-climbing wheelchair was a life-changing mobility device for people with disabilities
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The original iBOT stair-climbing wheelchair was a life-changing mobility device for people with disabilities
While the ability to climb stairs was the original wheelchair's most revolutionary function, the iBOT was no one trick pony
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While the ability to climb stairs was the original wheelchair's most revolutionary function, the iBOT was no one trick pony
Its not yet clear how 15 years of technological advancement will shape the new generation of iBOT wheelchairs
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Its not yet clear how 15 years of technological advancement will shape the new generation of iBOT wheelchairs
A prototype of the next generation of iBOT wheelchairs
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A prototype of the next generation of iBOT wheelchairs

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.

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.

A prototype of the next generation of iBOT wheelchairs
A prototype of the next generation of iBOT wheelchairs

"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.

Source: Toyota

iBOT

4 comments
Mark Markarian
Dean Kamen is a great inventor but a terrible businessman. I attended a presentation by Dean in the early 2000's in NYC and saw him demo this and the Segway. I knew both were going to be failures when he stated that he wasn't going to form a corporation that the public could buy stock in and that instead of purchasing stock, we the audience and you the rest of the public should finance other peoples education. In a way, he reminded me of Robert Moses who couldn't understand that the 1964/65 Worlds Fair would need to be marketed to the public in order for people want to go to it and turn a profit, unlike a bridge whose mere existence in the right place would lead to a wealth in tolls. With so many of Kamen's previous inventions being the only game in town to save a life, he didn't realize that the Segway and this wheelchair were in competition with other means of transportation and needed to be marketed by lots of people with 'SKIN in the Game' in order to sell.
Paul Anthony
I'd like to see it climb a flight of stairs
Daishi
The iBot wheelchair was the invention that provided the inspiration for the Segway. Segway inspired "hoverboards" and a lot of other things.
Daishi
A new development is that it looks like Toyota is closing on a deal to buy Boston Dynamics from Google. They could use the ibot platform to build wheeled robots that climb stairs.. It's a better solution than legs but at the same time if they didn't need a legged robotics platform they wouldn't need Boston Dynamics either.