By Henry Otterman
The iBOT 4000 Mobility System is a technological wonder. While it performs the same basic functions as an ordinary wheelchair, it also has so much more to offer. The iBOT is a power wheelchair developed by Dean Kamen and sold through Independence Technology, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson. In 2006, it retailed for around $26,000. In early 2009, all sales of the iBOT Mobility System ended, although support for existing units will continue until the end of 2013.
This power wheelchair is driven by a sophisticated system that combines sensors, software, gyroscopes and computers into the iBOT Mobility System. The iBALANCE, a special software package, receives data from sensors and gyroscopes and allows the iBOT to maintain its balance and stability. It can climb curbs while keeping the seat level. The wheelchair can power across uneven ground, sand, gravel and tall grass. It is perfect for traveling on city sidewalks as well as nature trails.
The iBOT Mobility System wheelchair can climb up stairs and curbs. A unique balance position allows the passenger to be raised up to eye-level for an eye-to-eye conversation or to reach up to shelves and cupboards. An iBOT is programmed and calibrated to the user's center of gravity to maintain balance constantly. When you move, the iBOT moves with you. A failsafe mechanism consisting of redundant backup systems ensures safety in all its operating modes.
The iBOT combines functionality with comfort. The automotive-style seat is adjustable to provide posture support and maximum comfort. The control panel can be situated in either arm, and it can swing away for convenience. A lighting system includes flashers and directional signals for added safety. It can also be locked-out to prevent usage by unauthorized persons.
The power supply for the iBOT 4000 Mobility System wheelchair is provided by two 67.2 volt batteries. It can be driven 12-15 miles between charges. The iBOT, however, is not for everyone. Allowable passenger weight is 75 lbs. to 250 lbs. A doctor's prescription is needed to buy the unit, as required by the FDA. Upon delivery of the iBOT, the user must undergo a systematic training program.
Although the iBOT Mobility System is billed as a stair-climbing wheelchair, the wheelchair user needs a handrail and sufficient upper body strength to climb stairs. Otherwise, an assistant will have to help.
Now that sales of the iBOT have been discontinued, current users will not be able to get a replacement when their iBOT wears out. Licensing will return to Dean Kamen, and those who want to have an iBOT Mobility System wheelchair in the future are hoping that it will become available again.
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