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Toyota joins Dean Kamen on wheelchair that climbs stairs

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Posthayleyw on Mon May 23, 2016 2:32 pm

Imagine a wheelchair that can climb or descend stairs.

That's the basic idea behind the iBOT, a motorized wheelchair that has two sets of wheels that can climb or descend stairs and handle more varied terrain than conventional wheelchairs.

Toyota says it is teaming with Segway creator Dean Kamen and his DEKA Research and Development to create a second generation of his iBOT device that could provide more mobility for the disabled. The agreement was announced at Paralyzed Veterans of America’s 70th Annual Convention in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“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,” said Osamu “Simon” Nagata, executive vice president at Toyota Motor North America, in a statement.

Instead of two big wheels, the iBOT has two smaller ones on each side. Using the same kind of balancing for which the Segway is known, the wheelchair can extended up from a sitting to a standing height, allowing users to be about six feet tall. And it can use the wheel arrangement to go up and down stair or over ground that might be difficult for other wheelchairs.

The iBot has been shown before, but the collaboration with Toyota could help give a boost to the project.

“Toyota and DEKA share the same vision of making mobility available to people of every kind of ability,” said Kamen, DEKA's founder, in a statment. “We are excited about this new relationship and excited about what it means for making that dream a reality.”

Toyota isn't alone in working on devices to help the disabled. Honda has been using its own robotics expertise on devices that can help support and provide power to help people with weak leg muscles to walk.

Toyota says that under the agreement, it will license balancing technologies held by DEKA and its affiliate for medical rehabilitative therapy. The two companies are talking about what else they can do together as well.

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