Toyota has unveiled a partnership with Segway human transporter inventor Dean Kamen and his company, DEKA Research and Development, for the development of advanced wheelchairs that will provide great assistance to the disabled and elderly population.
The agreement gives Toyota the license for utilizing the balancing system that was used by Kamen in previous projects concerning wheelchairs, which were created for purposes such as medical rehabilitation.
In addition, the partnership will provide Kamen assistance in launching the new iBOT wheelchair, which features two sets of wheels that allow the wheelchair to go up or down a flight of stairs. The wheelchair also helps disabled people stand and be face to face with their companions.
The alliance was announced at the 70th Annual Convention of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, where the new iBOT wheelchair was demonstrated. Kamen stopped sales of the iBOT wheelchair back in 2009, partly due to the high price of the device at $25,000. The partnership with Toyota now revives the project, although no details on the price of the new wheelchair have been revealed.
While Toyota will help reintroduce the iBOT wheelchair, what the company will do with the technology it has licensed from Kamen and DEKA Research and Development remains unclear.
"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 Toyota North America Executive VP Osamu Nagata at the event, adding that the car manufacturer is focused not just on vehicles but on the wider goal of providing mobility solutions to customers.
In November last year, Toyota said that it will be investing $1 billion over a period of five years to open a new robotics and artificial intelligence research institute in Silicon Valley. The facility, which will also have non-automotive projects such as ones focused on elderly mobility, is helmed by former DARPA robotics engineer Gill Pratt. Pratt introduced Nagata and Kamen to each other in December 2015, according to Scott Vazin, a company spokesman.
Dean Kamen shares the good news about the planned wheelchair in the video below: