Toyota not shybot about whybot it will trybot the iBot

Automaker and Segway daddy revive wheelchair project

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 teaming up to develop the stair-climbing wheelchair.

"Our company is very focused on mobility solutions for all people," Toyota North America EVP and chief administrative officer Osamu Nagata said in announcing the partnership.

"We realize that it is important to help older adults and people with special needs live well and continue to contribute their talents and experience to the world."

The iBot had originally been developed in the 1990s and was introduced as a more agile and capable alternative to the wheelchair, most notably for its ability to climb stairs.

The balancing systems used in the iBot were later implemented in the Segway.

iBot unveiling

Under the terms of the deal, Toyota will pay to license some of DEKA's technology on balancing devices for use with its own medical and rehabilitation hardware projects. DEKA, meanwhile, will use the proceeds to help fund the revival and continued development of the iBot, which at the time it was discontinued carried a retail price of $25,000.

Toyota also said it would leave the door open for additional partnerships that would "further assist" DEKA with developing mobility devices.

"Toyota and DEKA share the same vision of making mobility available to people of every kind of ability," said Kamen.

"We are excited about this new relationship and excited about what it means for making that dream a reality."

No word was given on when the revived iBot wheelchairs are due to return to the market. ®

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