Toyota Motor North America said last week that it’s planning to resurrect the iBot stair-climbing wheelchair developed by famed investor Dean Kamen’s DEKA Research & Development company.
The deal calls for DEKA to complete the development and launch of a new version of the iBot, the Japanese auto maker said. Toyota said it will also license the balancing technology developed by the R&D firm for medical rehabilitation and perhaps other purposes.
“Our company is very focused on mobility solutions for all people,” Toyota Motor North America chief administrative offices Osamu “Simon” Nagata said in prepared remarks. “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.”
“Toyota and DEKA share the same vision of making mobility available to people of every kind of ability,” Kamen added. “We are excited about this new relationship and excited about what it means for making that dream a reality.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Toyota will license balancing technologies held by DEKA and its affiliate for medical rehabilitative therapy and potentially other purposes. The companies continue to engage in ongoing discussions about how Toyota can further support DEKA and its mobility assistance technology.
After winning FDA approval for the iBot, DEKA and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) decided to shelve the $25,000 device after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said it would only reimburse patients with $6,000.
“We got it through the FDA in 4 years, only to have CMS take the position that it should be reimbursed the same as a regular wheelchair,” Kamen said in July 2009. “That’s like saying, ‘If you give a kid a computer in school, it’s the same as a pencil and paper,’ so you’ll reimburse the school 79¢.”
Here’s a video of the iBot in action: