iBOT the Breakthrough Stair-Climbing Wheel Chair for the Disabled

The physically impaired people have to face difficulties at many public and/or work places because arrangements like ramps are not present. iBOT is the breakthrough technology that enables them to climb stairs without any difficulty.  It is a battery operated computerized system of sensors, electric gears and electric motors that can be used on even or uneven surfaces.

This revolutionary balancing wheel chair was developed by Dean Kamen at the company DEKA in collaboration with Johnson and Johnson. Independence Technology division was formed by J&J to continue the development and sales of iBOT.

Distinguishing Features:

The groundbreaking wheel chair has many features that distinguish it from other wheel chairs;

  • It does not require any assistant with you in any situation.
  • It allows you to climb stairs safely.
  • It can elevate you as high as 6 inches.
  • It can go through sand, water and gravel up to 3 inches deep.
  • It can ascend and descend curbs up to 5 inches, provided that the rider is experienced.
  • In case it is not occupied, it can be operated with a remote control.
  • It uses the patented iBALANCE software and gyroscopes that maintain the equilibrium when the iBOT is on two wheels only. This is the scenario of standing position and the user can even travel in this configuration.

The Science behind Balancing:

The iBOT contains a combination of software, motors, computers and motion balancing gyroscopes. The sensors sense the movement and a signal is sent to the computers. The computers send the processed information to the motor to rotate the wheels and the gyroscopes help to maintain stability. All the system is programmed to the centre of gravity of the user; the person leans forward and the iBOT moves forward, he leans backward and it moves in reverse direction.

On uneven surfaces, the integrated system constantly adjusts the seat orientation and wheel positions to keep the user stable and upright. In the Standing Mode, with the press of a button, it raises the user to a high position so that he can have eye contact in any business meeting or social interaction, or to reach a high shelf in office, home or market, or to see over the counters without any hesitation or difficulty. In the Stair Balancing Mode the front and rear wheels of iBOT roll up and over each other while maintaining the user’s centre of gravity and allowing him to climb up or down the stairs easily by holding the railing.

The Discontinuation of the Power Wheel Chair:

In 2009, 6 years after the release of iBOT in 2003, the sale of iBOT was halted by the Independence Technology due to its high cost. Support for existing units continued till 2013. People who used it expressed that they really feel disabled when they are without iBOT. It provided a new perspective to their lives and they felt sad when iBOT was discontinued. But the good news is that FDA has reclassified it from Class III medical device to Class II and Dean Kamen happily expresses that this reclassification means reincarnation of the powered wheel chair. The long dormant iBOT if available again will be a great blessing for the people with physical disabilities.

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