View Full Version : Disabled California Soldiers Receive iBOT Wheelchairs
03-10-2009, 11:02 AM
Some California soldiers wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are getting much more than a purple heart. They're also getting some new wheels. They'll now by riding around in an iBOT wheelchair. It's made by the same guy who makes segways. It's like most powered wheelchairs except it can climb stairs, travel through thick terrain, and best of all, rise up on two wheels.
"Why couldn't we use the 21st century that we use to make auto pilot and gyro stablized equipment, put it in a device to help a disabled person regain the capability to stand up, look people in the eye and essentially be able to walk around, go up and down stairs and have their independence back, and we did it," says iBOT designer Dean Kamen.
The iBOT costs $26,000 each. But they were free for the veterans since the money was donated by a group of California business owners.
The Good Son
03-10-2009, 11:04 AM
Yeah, they're pretty sick, but I heard that they have discontinued the I-Bot!
03-10-2009, 11:07 AM
That's f'd up!
Do you have a link? Why would they discontinue such a good product?
03-10-2009, 11:20 AM
I think I found the article.....
iBOT Discontinued -- Unfortunate for the Disabled but Perhaps a Budding Robotics Opportunity?
As of January 2009, the iBOT powered-wheelchair will be discontinued. This is unfortunate for the disabled community -- Dean Kamen and the others at DEKA (the same people responsible for the Segway and Luke Arm) developed an amazing robotic wheelchair that was (somewhat) unique it its ability to transition from a statically-stable, 4-wheel configuration to a dynamically-stable, 2-wheel configuration to give occupants added height. Further, by pivoting pairs of wheels, the wheelchair and occupant were able to dynamically balance while traversing stairs, not to mention the wheelchair's basic ability to traverse (relatively) poor terrain, such as sand and gravel! All of this was possible due to careful controllers and internal gyros (not entirely dissimilar to a Segway). Read further for discussion -- specifically about why this loss for the disabled community could be an opportunity in disguise for the robotics community and a big win for Kamen and company.
For those not familiar, the iBOT is pictured below in three "compelling" configurations.
On the left, the wheelchair is in its 4-wheeled statically-stable configuration, just like any other powered wheelchair. In the middle, the wheelchair has transitioned to a 2-wheeled dynamically-stable configuration to provide the occupant with added reach. On the right is the wheelchair dynamically balancing while traversing stairs. For the un-initiated, perhaps a video is a little more compelling:
So... I have always thought that powered wheelchairs had the potential to make great mobile robot base platforms. They are typically sturdy, well-tested, and designed for prolong (safe) use. Because of their large market (compared to domestic mobile robots), they also benefit from economy-of-scale in pricing (if one discounts exorbitant healthcare markups in the United States). Consider that I can walk down to a neighborhood thrift shop and purchase a used run-of-the-mill powered-wheelchair for $40 (I still kind of kick myself for not grabbing one of the three; I haven't yet seen another materialize) .
Anyway, it appears that as of January 2009, Johnson & Johnson's Independence Technology (a DEKA licensee) is discontinuing production (with service through 2013). This may be really unfortunate for robotics -- domestic mobile robots are just coming into their own, and a base that could traverse stairs would be a real boon. I think it would be a shame if DEKA dismisses the iBOT in its entirety -- dare I say a "failure" on Kamen's part.
Curiously, Dean Kamen came and gave a talk at Georgia Tech a year or two ago where someone from our group asked him about the iBOT as a robot platform. While I cannot recall his exact response, it was something to this effect:
Because of certain FDA certifications / ratings relating to safety, we cannot sell and distribute the iBOT with a prescription and user training. We really wish we could sell them to roboticists, but unfortunately, that would result in loosing the very costly certification.
Costly FDA certifications, indeed... the iBOT retailed for upward of $25,000 USD. Now that it is being discontinued as a medical device, perhaps it can be fabricated and sold for the robotics community instead (at reduced prices). After all, these could be just as useful as the various Segway robotics platforms that DEKA is (gradually) releasing, such as the RMP series of bases (i.e. the RMP 50 Omni pictured below left or the RMP 200 pictured below right).
Thus... we could either see the discontinuation as a lost opportunity (failure on Kamen's part) or as a budding robotics opportunity (win on Kamen's part). I guess only time will tell.
So, while I'm thinking about Kamen's GT visit some time ago, I might as well share one other interesting nugget -- Kamen was asked his opinion regarding dynamically-stable platforms versus statically-stable platforms for mobile manipulation. Curiously, he share's my (oft mentioned) view that the few added benefits of dynamically-stable platforms (form factor, instantaneous forces, etc) cannot match the benefits of statically-stable platforms (reduced complexity in controllers, behaviors, perception, etc). Perhaps this (partially) vindicates my opinions about having a nice support polygon -- the inventor of the Segway does not believe in dynamically stable mobile manipulators!
03-10-2009, 11:23 AM
Test to include youtube....
<object width="320" height="265"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/z1RhmvxcpfI&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/z1RhmvxcpfI&hl=en&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="320" height="265"></embed></object>
03-10-2009, 11:26 AM
I give up.
Does anyone know how to embed youtube on this crazy forum?
03-10-2009, 11:34 AM
Edit, still not working. Let me try later.
Let's try it now.
03-10-2009, 06:14 PM
Wow! What cool idea!
03-12-2009, 11:32 AM
Umm, Just Rick, if you read the thread you would know that they CANCELLED the thing.
They couldn't get the insurance companies pay 3 X for the additional functionality.
And end users couldn't afford it on their own.
03-15-2009, 12:09 AM
here's another story.....
A family tried to get Tricare to pay for an ibot
YouTube - iBOT TRICARE Fight