Living a life while confined to a wheelchair all the time is not an easy job. It does not only affect a person’s mobility and lifestyle but is also a blow to their ego and self-respect. People who cannot stand up and walk feel out of place in society. They normally require help from others for seemingly basic tasks like going up and down stairs or accessing public spaces with no ramps.
Alleviating the disabled from such inconveniences was the goal of Dean Kamen’s, who is the inventor of the Segway, when he introduced the iBot back in 2001. This was a revolutionary wheelchair that aimed to change the lives of those people who wanted to live independently, even without being able to walk.
A Product Poorly Received
While the iBot’s concept was received with praise, the product failed to attract enough buyers and had to be discontinued in 2009. However, after recently acknowledging that the iBot is something that people need, Toyota has decided to bring back an improved version of the product.
The idea behind the iBot was to let disabled people do more than they were able to with conventional wheelchairs. It had two sets of wheels that could be arranged in a ‘standing’ configuration. This motion allowed users to be able to climb up stairs, move up and down pavements, and even be raised to eye-height of a normal adult. The wheelchair, while in this ‘standing’ position, could also be moved at a slow walking pace to keep up with moving people.
Despite all these revolutionary features, the iBot failed to gain the traction it needed due to its extremely heavy price tag. The wheelchair’s price started at $25,000, making it unfeasible for the mainstream market.
Toyota and DEKA Bring in the iBot 2.0
Automobile giant Toyota has partnered with DEKA in an attempt to produce a refreshed version of the iBot. This new version, dubbed the iBot 2.0, seems to be very similar to the original. However, Kamen says that the new design will be full of technological improvements. 15 years have passed since the original iBot was announced, and it’ll be interesting to see how the various technological advancements seen in all these years will affect the design.
Turning Dreams into Reality
Toyota decided to team up with DEKA because both companies share similar visions. Making life easier for people with disabilities is a primary concern for both companies. The project team is very excited about bringing the new design to the masses. While the original iBot didn’t bring in a lot of sales, Toyota and DEKA believe that the newest iteration will speak to many more people. They wish to bring such technology to as many people as possible and to make lives easier all around the globe.
The deciding factor for the iBot might be the price this time around as well, as the last iBot didn’t see enough sales primarily due to the high price tag. If the companies can manage to sell this mechanical wheelchair for a reasonable and affordable price, then chances are that the iBot could be an instant hit.