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Rebooting the Stair Climbing Wheelchair

The wheelchair you see in the above pictures, called the iBOT, hit the market just 13 years ago. This machine allowed paralyzed people to stand up by rising to eye level and can even climb stairs! Unfortunately, despite the love the device received from its users, the iBOT was discontinued by Johnson & Johnson and went out of production in 2009. However, the iBOT may be making a return…

Toyota announced just this year that it is bankrolling a reboot of the iBOT which is likely to include some improvements. The first version of this product was a whopping $25,000. Since the chair has been discontinued, all but a few of them remaining are stagnant in storage with nowhere to service them.

Toyota is primarily interested in some of the machine’s balancing technology which could translate into new parts for the existing iBOT as well as a new version of the chair.

Further helping the cause is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reclassifying the iBOT from their strictest regulatory category for medical devices (Class 3) to Class 2. This will decrease the expense of the machine.

This revolutionary wheelchair isn’t just about getting up to eye level; doctors are more excited about related inventions, like the ReWalk, that can actually get immobilized people walking again. Immobilized people are prone to weak bones, high blood pressure, urinary tract infections and debilitating constipation. Regular therapy with devices like the ReWalk can really help reduce pain and promote improved sleep.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, click here for the full article on NPR’s website.