Dean Kamen, founder of DEKA Research invented the iBOT Mobility System in response to his seeing a disabled veteran in an ordinary wheelchair attempt with great difficulty to mount a curb, enter a mall and interact with the sales person as an equal.
The challenge was substantial, Dean Kamen wanted to invent a a wheelchair like none other, a true mobility device, one that could not only climb a curb, but climb an entire flight of stairs and mimic human balance.
The iBOT is unique in that it can in fact mount a curb, can climb a flight of stairs with or without aid and it can be used on most terrain, including dirt and sand, but in balance mode it can provide equality, a seated person can sit at eye level with a standing adult. DEKA licensed Johnson & Johnson to manufacture the iBOT.
Several years later sales were limited by the Federal Government's CMS decision that balance and stair climbing were not considered medical necessities and therefore not important enough features to be entitled to Medicare Medicaid reimbursements. That decision was sadly also mimicked by most private insurers and in turn, the Veterans Administration took a very restrictive view of who they would decide should be provided the iBOT.
The result of this short sighted Federal government view of the value of the iBOT to person's who otherwise are wheelchair bound and the FDA's decision to classify the only such mobility assistance Class III Medical device all but guaranteed that J&J's sales would be well below expectations. J&J shut down the manufacture of iBOTs and only agreed to provide 3 years of continued post delivery warranty service.
And, unknown to most iBOT owners, we have just learned that there is a delayed time-clock cut off of all speed 2, balance and stair climbing ability in the near future. While originally a programming code to motivate iBOT owners to have their iBOTs periodically serviced, now the future of those personally owned iBOTs is in jeopardy. Soon, all these magnificent iBOTs will become as valuable as a rock. (or a motorized wheel chair)
The only good news is that J&J returned all rights back to DEKA and if we can come up with a viable business plan, perhaps one where iBOTs will be built by a Veteran Owned non-profit or even a Veteran Owned for profit business, these rights can be acquired from DEKA.
Dean Kamen and DEKA would love to see the iBOT back in production and available for those that are handicapped, but especially to our disabled military community.
By the way, Huey091 Foundation provided over 20 iBOTS to disabled veterans, compared to a reported 63 provided by the Veterans Administration.