Toyota returns to the iBot, a stair-climbing wheelchair

Toyota has confirmed its involvement in resurrecting the iBot, a next-generation, stair-climbing wheelchair first produced ten years ago.

If you were to ask most people to name a technology or concept that was years ahead of its time, a common answer might be the supersonic Concorde. However, there is another; the iBot motorised wheelchair, which was first unveiled in 2001, wowed consumers but unfortunately was far too expensive for a mainstream market.
Wheelchairs have steadfastly remained unimproved from their present design, but Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota aims to redress that by returning to the iBot concept in a new partnership with DEKA, a company founded by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway.
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In a statement, Toyota confirmed its plans to launch a new generation iBot with the view of “support(ing) mobility solutions for the disabled community.”
The company has published an image of an iBot 2.0 prototype, which doubles down on weight and heft but includes the same innovative ideas first ten years ago. In the words of Kamen, this amounts to a design that is “(enhanced) with 15 years of improvements in technology.”
In a promo video, Kamen states that “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.”
Toya has previously invested a sum of $1 billion USD in a research institute that is developing robotic caretakers, and will license balancing technology from DEKA to assist in its own products.
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What are your thoughts on the iBot? Could this be the next generation wheelchair the 21st century needs? Be sure to let us know your opinion in the comments below!
Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA
Source: Toyota