A power wheelchair that can climb stairs has eluded persons with mobility problems since the time immemorial. We have very advanced power wheelchairs these days and many of these wheelchairs are also multi-terrain. But climbing stairs can be a big problem for even the most advanced wheelchairs.
The iBot power wheelchair was made back in 2009 and various demonstrations showed that the wheelchair could easily climb stairs. But the whopping cost of $25,000 was a big barrier and the stair-climbing power wheelchair never hit the market. The power wheelchair was created and designed by Dean Kamen’s DEKA, and was put in cold storage due to the cost, and other technological challenges.
According to this Engadget update, the Toyota company of Japan has decided to partner with DEKA to bring the power wheelchair that can climb stairs to the mainstream by combining technologies of both the companies, and bringing the cost down.
Along with the power wheelchair that can climb stairs, Toyota is also interested in using the technology within the iBot wheelchair that allows it to balance on two wheels. Just see this video.
I tried to find more videos and other information about the stair-climbing iBot wheelchair but strangely, not much information is available.
But as you can see in the video and the above image, the power wheelchair can easily balance on two wheels. This balancing technology is being used by many companies to create mobility devices that don’t depend on four wheels.
As you can see in the video below, the Segway mobility device also works on just two wheels, and it uses the body’s centre of gravity to move forward, backward and even turn around. This is a highly advanced technology and it can be used in many other applications, aside from, of course, wheelchairs that can climb stairs.
This Press Room link from Toyota contains a detailed video of the iBot wheelchair that demonstrates various capabilities of the wheelchair including how it can climb stairs and can easily run over different terrains.
Personally I believe power wheelchairs should completely do away with wheels. Instead, robotic legs can be attached to the chairs so that instead of using the wheels, people can use the robotic legs to move around. One, there will be no need to work on technologies that enable wheels to climb stairs because it is easier to climb using legs, and second, we will be able to have truly all-terrain power wheelchairs that can practically go anywhere.