back to article Toyota not shybot about whybot it will trybot the iBot

Inventor Dean Kamen has inked a deal with Toyota to revive his iBot smart wheelchair, which has been out of production since 2009. The Segway creator's DEKA Research and Development Corp and the Japanese automaker said this weekend in a joint press conference at the Paralyzed Veterans of America Convention that they would be …

  1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Big Thumbs Up!

    We can do amazing things when we try. Sadly money is often a limit.

    Don't let it be. It's great to hear about those looking to improve and help others.

    I hope the effort is put in the right place and many people benefit from this.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Big Thumbs Up!

      Yes, exoskeleton mobility is possible too, yet most trials are for military guys in the field to substitute for a fork lift. How sad.

      There are LOADS of things possible for all kinds of disabled people. But the makers don't see big enough market.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Big Thumbs Up!

        >yet most trials are for military guys in the field to substitute for a fork lift. How sad.

        That application is a better fit for the technology as it is now - fit operators, colleagues on hand to help don the suit, noise, power supply requirements etc. When it is refined, then yeah, it will be suitable for helping people who can't use their limbs.

  2. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    in theory...

    Toyota's ability to utilize manufacturing economy of scale should deliver pretty consistent quality at a lower price point than Kamen was able to offer before. Plus the technology is a bit more mature now. This is hopefully good news for those with impaired mobility.

    I'm already a fan of Kamen for his FIRSTInspires organization which get kids interested in STEM through various robotics programs. I'm a mentor for a local FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) team in my area and find it very rewarding work.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: in theory...

      I see the biggest change as the FDA reclassifying stair climbing wheelchairs as Class II medical devices from Class III. That alone will save a ton of dollars on the next iteration and should make it substantially cheaper to produce.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: in theory...

      Toyota's ability to utilize manufacturing economy of scale should deliver pretty consistent quality at a lower price point than Kamen was able to offer before.

      .. provided they source the right components. It's not (yet) been reported in the UK press, but they've just had to recall another 1.6M vehicles in the US as they had Takata airbags fitted (it's about vehicles manufactured between 2006 and 2011). That brings the total recall (Hi Arnie) for Toyota to about 4.7M vehicles, but that's not where this story ends.

      (if case you're wondering, the problem is that high exposure to humidity can cause these airbags to explode with too much force, which results in shrapnel being thrown into the interior).

  3. Spamfast Bronze badge

    The aspect of this tech that impressed me most was the ability for the user to interact eye-to-eye with others.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      The aspect of this tech that impressed me most was the ability for the user to interact eye-to-eye with others.

      Agreed, that's a big advantage. The only time I saw one of these (I live in the UK) was in a local restaurant when a young woman came in in one, and while her friends were standing waiting she elevated it so she was at the same height as her friends. It brought home to me how much we literally look down on wheelchair users and how that subconsciously affects our attitudes to them. Kudos to Toyota and Kamen for this deal.

    2. Chris Holford
      Facepalm

      Agreed, -but the balancing on two wheels needs continuous servo operation and thus battery drain, plus the posibility of failure. Wouldn't a scissors jack mechanism achieve the same resultwith less power drain and less likelyhood of failure?

      1. Mirminator

        Late to the party, but according to the iBot manual the balance function actually uses the least amount power. That's what is suggested when your battery is running low. I've been using mine for 10 years now. I never follow that advice because in balance mode the iBot is beyond slow, which may be why it draws less power?? Don't know - don't really care because either way it's amazing.

    3. Chris Holford

      Agreed, -but the balancing on two wheels needs continuous servo operation and thus battery drain, plus the posibility of failure. Wouldn't a scissors jack mechanism achieve the same resultwith less power drain and less likelyhood of failure?

      1. Lamont Cranston

        re: scissor jack

        But that won't get you up the stairs, will it?

  4. LINCARD1000
    Joke

    Idly speculating whether or not Toyota will try and cheat on the emissions test for this thing... :-)

    In all seriousness this has the possibility of positively impacting on many people's daily lives. So here's to Toyota making this sort of tech far more accessible to more people.

    1. Mirminator

      Ha! My theory is that Toyota wants to -in part- offset some of the awful press of the last few years by doing this. Whatever it takes! Just bring it back!

  5. Chris G Silver badge

    5 Stars

    For that one!

    I have a pathological hatred of Segways for some reason and hoverboards which are similar technology should have a bounty on them, (or at least the operators).

    However, this wheelchair really should be made available to a wider customer base, with the enhanced mobility it offers and as mentioned the ability for users to function at eye level with other people offers those who need a wheelchair a chance to interact in a much better way with the world around them and to literally overcome the feeling of being looked down upon.

    With Toyota in on the deal there will be a much better chance of an affordable chair for more people with the economies of large scale production.

    1. Sebastian A

      Re: 5 Stars

      You do realise that making technology commercially viable will speed up improvements in it, right? If the only market for that kind of technology was wheelchairs it'd take a lot longer to evolve simply because the funds would be harder to get.

      You may hate Segways and so-called "hoverboards" but they've allowed for this wheelchair to come back from the scrapheap.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: 5 Stars

        Yes, I'm fully aware of that Sebastian, I'm a robotics engineer but it doesn't mean I have to like everything that uses a given technology. There are a lot of other and possibly better uses for this type of gyroscopic stabiliser than a Segway,everyone has the right to like them or not like them, I go with the latter.

        There are a lot of inventions that seem to be on the scrapheap but which are actually only postponed until development or the market moves to a point where they become viable in some way, I'd say this was one of them. With the benefits of LiPo batteries and better software it is about time powered wheelchairs moved forward from the Mobility Scooter to something really useful for people who can't go where they like because of disabilty.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: 5 Stars

          The investment that many companies are now putting into 3D depth sensing and autonomous car movement (nVidia, Google, MS, Intel, Tesla, Volvo and others) could be a good match for electric wheelchairs, especially for users with limited use of their hands.

        2. Sebastian A

          Re: 5 Stars

          There's a difference between "not having to like" something and putting a bounty on the users of it.

          Hyperbole doesn't help in what's intended to be a reasonable discussion.

    2. Mirminator

      Re: 5 Stars

      Trust me, that feeling of being looked down upon is not just a feeling; it's a reality. Generally speaking, when people look down AT you, they look down ON you. The iBot enables me to retain my normal 6' height or lower to to someone else's level. It changes more than you can even imagine.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: 5 Stars

        And that's when they look at you at all, rather than just looking over you

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