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iBot Self-Balancing Mobility Device FDA Approved 274

Posted by simoniker
from the gadgets-that-make-lives-better dept.
ptorrone writes "In November of 2002, I was able to see the self-balancing iBot mobility device, which can go up and down stairs and travel/balance on two wheels, in person. It literally brought tears to my eyes seeing what it will mean for millions of disabled people around the world. Today, the FDA has approved its use, after years of approval processes and testing." We've mentioned this Dean Kamen-created product previously, but it's good to see it officially approved and available for those who need it.
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iBot Self-Balancing Mobility Device FDA Approved

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  • FDA + Wheelchair (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SKPhoton (683703) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @04:43AM (#6693475) Homepage
    Since when does the Food and Drug Administration have to approve advanced wheelchairs? Maybe if it was a big vitamin wheelchair.
    • Re:FDA + Wheelchair (Score:3, Interesting)

      by trikberg (621893)
      It was a long time since I read about it, but it was something about it being a lot cheaper to buy once it was classified as an aid for disabled people. I don't remember the reason, could have been either related to insurance or to tax deductability I guess.
      • Re:FDA + Wheelchair (Score:5, Informative)

        by trikberg (621893) <trikberg.hotmail@com> on Thursday August 14, 2003 @04:55AM (#6693514)

        As always Google found what I was looking for here [wired.com].

        Johnson & Johnson wants to market the IBot as a physician-prescribed device, instead of a consumer device, so that it can be covered under many medical insurance plans, according to development information provided by the company.

        • IBot will be a huge seller. The government will bear much of the cost as doctors will prescribe them and they will be covered by Medicaid. The approval process has been long and slow. The Segway served to generate public interest in the technology and get people used to it. If it weren't for awareness of the Segway and how safe it is touted to be it would have been harder to get approval of the IBot. You think the Segway is expensive, wait until you see the sticker price on these things.

          This is a the real revolutionary device and it will make lots of money. I still have my doubts about whether the Segway itself will be a sucess in the next few years. That doesn't matter though, it paved the way for IBot in the court of public opinion. Imagine the reaction of people to IBot if they had never seen the Segway, "You're going to give a wheelchair-bound person what?!?" Now, with the public acclimated to the balancing technology, the reaction will be one of amazement instead of concern.

          • by druske (550305) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @10:06AM (#6695244)
            "IBot will be a huge seller. The government will bear much of the cost as doctors will prescribe them and they will be covered by Medicaid..."
            That'd be nice, but I rather doubt it'll be easy to get these expensive monsters approved. My wife has a rather simple electric wheelchair with a joystick control, and even that cost US$8,000. It took me a good bit of arguing with our HMO to get it covered, too, back in the days when my employer's health plan was worth something... these days I'd end up paying most of it out-of-pocket. With luck, it should be another two years or so before it needs to be replaced.

            The other thing that will limit the iBot adoption is that it takes an extra amount of coordination to control it safely in its enhanced modes... mostly fine for people with lower spinal cord injuries or spina bifida, but probably less useful in general for cerebral palsy or the later stages of muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis. The people best equipped to make full use of the iBot are also those who can often get by with a manual wheelchair.

            Finally, there's the "fear factor"... my wife watched a video of this thing going down stairs and declared that there was no way in hell she'd trust the machine. Her chair weighs in at around 220 pounds; a tumble with such a machine could very easily be fatal.

            I do think that advanced machines like the iBot have a future, but I think that future will be a long time in arriving. Meantime, accessibility is improving all the time, and stairs aren't the obstacle they were even ten years ago. By the time a stair climbing wheelchair is widely available, cost effective, and trusted, the problem it solves will have greatly diminished.
    • Re:FDA + Wheelchair (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 2Flower (216318) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @08:35AM (#6694438) Homepage

      Actually, the FDA regulates all manners of medical devices; there's an entire branch of the org which deals with them, the Center for Devices and Radiological Health. That means everything from syringes to x-ray machines to wheelchairs.

      I work as a webmaster over there (All Opinions Expressed Are Mine And Have Nothing To Do With My Employer) and got to post the happy news of this thing to the CDRH website (http://www.fda.gov/cdrh) today. Whee! ...please don't slashdot our database server, we're a little understaffed today...

  • by some damn guy (564195) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @04:44AM (#6693477)
    using my legs like a sucker.
  • FDA? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jasoncart (573937) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @04:46AM (#6693480) Homepage
    Excuse my ignorance, but why is electronic device this being approved by the "Food & Drugs Administration"?
    • Re:FDA? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 14, 2003 @05:02AM (#6693536)
      They are marketing it as a medical device which requires a doctor's order so that insurance will help people buy them. Therefore it is considered a medical device and needs fda approval. THey could have marketed it directly to consumers and avoid the FDA hassel but then insurance could not help pay for them.
    • Re:FDA? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ratfynk (456467) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @05:10AM (#6693566) Journal
      Good question, if you build wheel chairs they need approval. Any device that the medical insurance industry might need to pay for has to be approved. It does not matter if it is a tech creation. The FDA is there to look after the well being of industry. "The business of Government is business" You will not be able to sue if you have an accident using this device, unless you can prove neglagence on the part of the maker. Same thing goes for the cost of practice insurance for doctors, it costs a fortune because Americans love litigation so much nowadays. There are hords Lawyers who do nothing but take cases against medical companies and doctors on spec because it has become so lucurative. I just hope this bullshit continues to stay south of the Canadian border where it belongs.
    • The approve other pesky "electronic" things like heart monitors, pulmonary relectrocution units, and artifical hearts too...get the idea...
  • by NKJensen (51126) <[kd.neppurgtenretni] [ta] [jkn]> on Thursday August 14, 2003 @04:46AM (#6693483) Homepage
    Sometimes I wonder if the FDA approval is too difficult to obtain. It's always a balance between getting the products onto the market and keeping them safe. It's said to cost near one billion US$ to get a new drug on the market - not many companies can afford someting even remotely as expensive for a mechanical aid.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      No, it is not "hard" per se, if we're talking about devices. There may be a million and one requirements your device have to comply with, but there isn't much red tape.

      Howto:

      1. Go to the FDA [fda.gov] and download the requirement specs for your device. Sometimes the specs point to other standards, e.g ISO standards, which you will have to find elsewhere.

      2. Test your device according to the specs.

      If you're to lazy or too much in a hurry to do 1 and 2, talk to an independent testing lab and they will help you from
    • It's said to cost near one billion US$ to get a new drug on the market...

      Keep in mind, that figure includes the cost of research and development on the drug being approved, as well as previous drugs that have failed for various reasons (ineffective, toxic, etc). Neglecting the cost of failed drug research, the cost for each drug would probably cost a factor of 4 or 5 times cheaper than $1B. Still a lot of money, but hey, who said pharma was easy?

  • nice (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    really nice. good to see they've got this approved. now if they could get the thing to look a bit better. maybe some gofaster stripes or alloy wheels on it would do ;]
  • by Cappy Red (576737) <miketoon@NOspAm.yahoo.com> on Thursday August 14, 2003 @04:50AM (#6693502)
    This is but the first step on the way to making giant robot anime a reality.

    I wonder if I can mod this thing into a gundam... or better yet a megadeus.

    *honk*
  • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Thursday August 14, 2003 @04:57AM (#6693519) Homepage
    It's interresting to note that this wheelchair also has served as the technology-cradle (if you will) for the Segway. Yet, the Segway has been around for quite some time already, and the wheelchair only just got approved by the FDA.

    The whole approval thing makes it possible to get part of the (very costly) wheelchair price covered by medical insurances and the like, as I've understood things correctly anyway.
    • "The whole approval thing makes it possible to get part of the (very costly) wheelchair price covered by medical insurances and the like, as I've understood things correctly anyway."

      Yes, and what about safety? The Segway doesn't have to be Bush- *cough* fool-proof, the wheelchair has to be.

      Any fast, unexpected motion (losing balance, falling, a quick jerk forward or backward) can have far-reaching consequences for the person using the device (think about neck and back strain).

    • I thought I saw a three wheeled version of this device that climbed stairs, but held the user in an upright manner. The three wheels were arranged in triangle and I do not remember the device needing any interaction with the user to fascilitate stair climbing. Anyone else see this?
    • Actually the wheelchair has been around for quite a while, but it was just pending FDA approval. I got to see a demo of this wheelchair... pretty neat stuff.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 14, 2003 @04:58AM (#6693521)

    ...but it's good to see it officially approved and available for those who need it.

    Read: those who can afford it.

    • Read: those who can afford it.
      read other peoples posts concerning FDA approval and health insurance.
    • this is not an inherently super-expensive product. it will eventually become somewhat reasonable.

      however, the patent system will probably keep it expensive for longer than it should be..
  • FDA approval (Score:3, Informative)

    by panurge (573432) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @05:03AM (#6693543)
    Drugs companies actually spend far more on marketing than they do on R&D, which includes approvals. How much of that marketing is really necessary - unless, of course, the drugs aren't really as effective as they claim?
    This thing needs approval because in confined spaces it could to terrible damage to other people as well as the occupant. Stair climbing and standing up is all very well, but suppose it fell over with someone else under it? The approval costs must be a tiny fraction of the potential liability if it was shown an insufficiently tested thing like this was released on the market.

    But then, many people with only minor disability - reduced leg movement for instance - could well get away with a Segway. Perhaps they will go on to develop a whole range of these devices for different levels of disability, using the work done on approving "everything" to make subsequent approval much easier for the less functional versions.

    • Re:FDA approval (Score:4, Interesting)

      by lovebyte (81275) * <lovebyte2000NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday August 14, 2003 @05:12AM (#6693577) Homepage
      Drugs companies actually spend far more on marketing than they do on R&D, which includes approvals. How much of that marketing is really necessary - unless, of course, the drugs aren't really as effective as they claim?

      The thing people usually misunderstand about drug approval is that the results of the clinical tests are open to scrutiny. If the drugs are not effective, the FDA can (and does) not approve them.
      Having said that, pharmaceutical companies spend way too much money on "lobbying" doctors. The usual budget rundown is: 1/3 R&D, 1/3 infrastructure, 1/3 Marketing and sales. Of the 1/3 R&D, 1/3 goes to research, which makes the pharmaceutical industry the industry that spends the most in research.
      • this applies to software development and implementation too. i do this for a living for a major drug company, and we're putting in a new data capture system for use in a clinical trials department. it's very, very time consuming and difficult to do this to the level of detail and accountability that the FDA requires - but this is a good thing. it *should* be difficult to get approval as you're dealing with things that have a direct impact on people - whether thru drug efficacy, or though a medical aid
      • Re:FDA approval (Score:3, Interesting)

        by panurge (573432)
        It is true that the results of the tests are open to scrutiny. However, as I am sure you realise, in many cases it is extremely difficult if not impossible to weight the levels of benefit versus harm across the entire population. It is probably better for a marginally effective drug to be approved than to be rejected because, once it moves beyond clinical trials into general use, it may prove to be particularly effective in certain cases or in combination. The outcome can be that insurance companies and, in
        • You are right. It is a very difficult thing to know if a drug will work for everyone or for only a few people and how well it works. On top of this there is also the problem of testing combinations of drugs as some cocktails can be lethal.

          Let's hope that with the advances in human genomics, doctors will be able to DNA-test the efficacy of drugs on patients before giving them the drugs. We are not so far away from that, I'd say 5 years.
  • Videos of it in use (Score:5, Informative)

    by batemanm (534197) <`batemanm' `at' `gmail.com'> on Thursday August 14, 2003 @05:04AM (#6693546)
    Since I'd never seen this thing in use I dug up some videos of it in use. The first two are quite low quality, the final one is a good quality.

    It still looks a little unstable on stairs but it does mean that a person in a wheelchair can go up and down stairs by themselves, which is definetly a good thing.
    • by batemanm (534197)
      Here [msnbc.com] is a news report which has even better info + an interview with the guy that made it.
    • Going up stairs looks tedious and cumbersome, why can't the wheels just drive it up somehow?
      • Having two wheels on a rotating arm like that means that the robot can climb a bigger step than a larger diameter wheel can. You could try just driving up such a step if you were in a humvee, but this wheelchair has to run 3 CPUs and who knows how many motors off the onboard batteries....

        hmm speaking of humvees, what would happen if you got an ordinary good quality remote control aeroplane, stripped out all the servos and put two servos on an iBot's joystick and one servo on the trigger of a M249 Squad Aut
  • by tsa (15680)
    What an enormously cool thing! It's like a Segway on steroids. I'd almost chop off a leg for one of these!
  • Hefty price tag (Score:4, Informative)

    by Florian Weimer (88405) <fw@deneb.enyo.de> on Thursday August 14, 2003 @05:08AM (#6693559) Homepage
    According to this article [cbsnews.com], the iBot costs $29,000. Most people who would benefit from this technology cannot afford it, unfortunately.
    • Re:Hefty price tag (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ArsonPanda (647069) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @05:22AM (#6693608)
      One of the major points of getting FDA approval on something like this is so that the feds (medicare/aid) will likely pick up a large portion, or in some cases, all of the cost.
      • Because of its ability to climb stairs, drive over rough terrian and raise a person to a standing height, it also eliminates the need for some house modifications that need to be made when someone becomes wheelchair-bound, such as building a wheelchair ramp into the house or creating a lift between floors.
    • Re:Hefty price tag (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) <abacaxi&hotmail,com> on Thursday August 14, 2003 @07:51AM (#6694093)
      "the iBot costs $29,000. Most people who would benefit from this technology cannot afford it, unfortunately."

      Not true. As an approved "medical device", some to all of the cost can be paid for by insurance. And this avoids having to do extensive modifications to a home: the ramps, stair lifts, kitchen modifications, etc. can quickly add up to tens of thousands of dollars. Just its ability to go over a small curb, such as is often found between a garage and house or front entry walk and house eliminates two ramps. Standing up means the top half of a kitchen and closet is no longer useless.

      The ability to 'stand up' and reach things makes much more of the world and home available to a paraplegic, and can probably give a proportion of them the ability to live without attendants or to expand their career opportunities.

    • I wonder whether the hefty price tag is based on short production runs recovering the hefty $150mil R&D price tag. The unit costs might not be so bad, especially if the production run could be made enormous.

      Compare this to the cost of retrofitting buildings to apply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The fixed cost of saying this will be done is zero, but it costs tens of thousands per unit just in construction costs, not to mention the cost inspection, planning and legal efforts. It might n
    • On balance (sic) look at the cost of retrofitting a house to accommodate a typical wheelchair- stair elevators, ramps and decks, standard electric wheelchair... it's better and not much more expensive, and now it'll get paid for too.
    • How much do those vans retrofitted with lifting platforms cost? I see a lot of those around. I think they must be subsidized.
      • How much do those vans retrofitted with lifting platforms cost? I see a lot of those around. I think they must be subsidized.

        Well, I have a Ford van with a Ricon 6000 wheelchair lift. I bought the van new in 1992 and had it converted; it came it around US$28,000. Subsidized? Well, like most manufacturers, Ford had a US$1,000 credit towards the installation of such equipment, but the rest was out of my paycheck.

        Unfortunately, with 150,000 miles on the van its second transmission is now going, and I under

  • by Zemran (3101) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @05:09AM (#6693561) Homepage Journal
    Well you can listen to music on your iPod while working on your iBook and sitting in your iBot whilst invading iRaq.
  • FYI on FDA (Score:5, Informative)

    by segment (695309) <sil@politri x . org> on Thursday August 14, 2003 @05:12AM (#6693574) Homepage Journal
    For those wondering why the FDA would have to approve the device, figured this would help. Also in Europe they have the Medical Device Directive [conformance.co.uk], and the UK Medical Devices Agency [medical-devices.gov.uk]

    Who is watching your food to make sure it is safe? Who should be? Well, for almost ninety years the Food and Drug Administration has been charged with the task of protecting and promoting the public health. Laws including the Nutrition Labeling Education Act, Pure Food and Drugs Act, and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act have shaped the way the FDA operates, outlining an agency which has jurisdiction over the approval of food additives (Delaney clause), biologics (prescription drugs), medical devices, and cosmetics produced by manufacturers for the United States market
    Why do they place so much power in one agency is beyond comprehension. Can you imagine the type of abuse someone can put another company through. IE, say XFOO Corp. has some Cancer drug that works and the developers spent some couple million on it.

    Now say employee John Foofxr decides he wants someone to pay him some serious moolah to have this drug approved. Either the company pays or it doesn't. Too much power for one gov agency, and bear in mind they have no oversight agency.

    Congressional Institute's page on the FDA [conginst.org]

    • Re:FYI on FDA (Score:5, Interesting)

      by HBI (604924) <kparadine&gmail,com> on Thursday August 14, 2003 @06:07AM (#6693718) Homepage Journal
      Corruption is almost unknown in the US Government. Yes, I work there. Why is it unknown?

      Fear.

      There are just too many people watching in most instances, and corruption *will* get you a long trip to an ass-ramming federal pen. Besides, government workers are dweebs. Anyone with enough smarts to pull off a good extortion racket wouldn't take the job, the pay is too low.

      And before you ask, i'm a contractor.
      • by hellfire (86129)
        Corruption is almost unknown in the US Government.

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

        *wipes the tears from his eyes and gasps for breath*

        Thank you... I needed a good laugh today.
    • Re:FYI on FDA (Score:4, Interesting)

      by evilviper (135110) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @06:45AM (#6693826) Journal
      Why do they place so much power in one agency is beyond comprehension. Can you imagine the type of abuse someone can put another company through.

      I think your mistrust is unfounded. I admit I don't know how the FDA is operated, who has direct/indirect oversight, etc., but why worry about the FDA (which has an incredible record) while there are plenty of other agencies that have numerous and ongoing cases of blatant corruption and abuses?
    • Why do they place so much power i none agency is beyond comprehension

      Yeah, and while we're at it let's talk about the military. They've got government employees who run around with guns for chrissakes. Can you imagine the type of abuse they could put people through. IE say Sgt Foofxr wants some money, he could just make you fork it over at gunpoint.

      <clue>Government agencies are given power because they have a job to do. This is inherently dangerous. It's the structures ensuring accountability
  • At the kind of price it'll be going for, I think the number is probably closer to a few thousand...
  • More on FDA (Score:3, Informative)

    by segment (695309) <sil@politri x . org> on Thursday August 14, 2003 @05:18AM (#6693594) Homepage Journal

    (source for this doc [ncsu.edu])

    Ethical Issues Involving Medical Devices
    Rick Chen

    Introduction

    In a society where new technology is constantly being invented, medical devices are evolving at a fast pace. The use of complex and sophisticated equipment to monitor patient and diagnose disease are more and more routine in hospitals and clinics. New discoveries in the material science field have led to the improvement in implant devices such as pacemakers, artificial grafts, and artificial organs. Armed with these technological advances, physicians and engineers are able to save more lives and improve the quality of living. However, these new technologies have raised new debates and discussions on morality and ethical issues. Approval and regulation of medical devices, as well as patient's rights and informed consents are just a few of the many issues stirred up by these new developments. This section discusses some of the issues and concerns dealing with medical ethics as well as regulation of medical devices. It also talks about some cases that involved medical device failure, and some of the government's attempts to reduce failure.

    Issues and Concerns

    As most people know, putting new medical technologies on the market requires repeated clinical tests follow by animal and human tests. Finally the device is approved by the government agency such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In order to fully test the effectiveness of these devices, animal and human testing is necessary at some point. Due to sheer increases in the volume of biomedical research, problems associated with human experimentation gain in importance. This need raises very complicated questions about balancing the patient's right against the overall benefits. On the one hand, human life is precious and needs to be considered a high priority. On the other hand, the new technology could potentially have large social benefits.

    In order to ensure the risks of physical and emotional injuries are at a minimum, every clinical study is required to meet comprehensive guidelines and regulations before moving to human experimentations. In addition to the regulations, a patient's rights during a human trial study should be properly protected. The concept of "informed consent" has emerged as a way to control this issue. Under informed consent, patients need to be informed of every aspect of the study, as well as the potential risks involved. This topic is discussed in detail in the informed consent section.

    Medical Device Regulation

    The first step in medical device regulation is to clearly define all the related terms and categories. A medical device is defined as any equipment used to treat, diagnose, or prevent disease (Jefferys, 2001). It can range from very basic equipment such as needles and syringes to complex devices such as X-ray machines and MRI scanners. In the case of clinical studies where the device has not yet been approved, a series of steps needs to be taken. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for the regulation of these devices. For the new device to be used on human subjects, first an investigational device exemption (IDE), which allows an unapproved device to be used in a research study, needs to be approved by the FDA. After the approval, the devices are then divided into two categories: significant risk and insignificant risk. Devices that pose significant risks include implants and artificial organs. Devices such as glasses and teeth-braces are qualified as insignificant risk devices. Research study that involves devices with significant risk cannot process until the procedure is approved by an institutional review board (IRB) and the FDA, which is based on the informed consent forms (Enderle et al., 2000).

    In the UK and Europe, the devices are divided up into three categories: low risk (category I)

  • by mothrathegreat (542532) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @05:19AM (#6693595)
    Now all that remains is for George w Bush to fall off it and the federal government's work here is done

    • Oh c'mon, be serious. The President is a person of dignity and intelligence; they would have the common sense NOT to hop onto some weird device and make an ass of themselves.

      *cough*
      http://www.usatoday.com/money/industrie s/technolog y/maney/2003-06-17-segway_x.htm
      *cough*
  • Exercise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RupW (515653) * on Thursday August 14, 2003 @05:20AM (#6693599)
    Could you redesign this with a manual push mechanism? Neat though this is, if I were disabled I'd prefer to push myself. Mostly for exercise - I'm young, why let the rest of me rot? But also in case of mechanical / battery failure, etc.

    Does this gyro technology work at any speed or is it kept it on a smooth motor to avoid overstretching it? Could you make a push-scooter Segway?
    • Re:Exercise (Score:5, Informative)

      by mikeophile (647318) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @06:07AM (#6693719)
      The gyro technology that is used in both the iBot and the Segway don't keep the device balanced directly.

      They simply provide feedback to an onboard computer that controls the servo motors that power them.

      About 100 times a second, the motors make corrections either backward or forward based upon the data the gyros provide.

      So no, there is no way of making a Segway a push scooter since it can't balance at all without power.

      From the pictures, the iBot looks like the motor might be able to be disengaged to allow it to be pushed in four wheel mode. I don't think it can be manually self-propelled however.

    • Here's a novel twist on a wheelchair that provides a little muscle movement. Some future iteration of the iBot could be pedal powered when on level ground, and go into gyro mode for more strenuous movements.
      EZ-Chair [ezchair.com]
      • Re:Exercise (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jandrese (485) *
        Uh, I think there might be a problem making a pedal powered wheelchair... If you're thinking it might have something to do with the owners not having use of their legs you're on the right track.

        Although it's kinda lame, you could stick a couple of handcrank generators on the sides of the wheelchair to let the rider keep the batteries charged longer. Does the wheelchair have a remaining running time display or something similar? I didn't see one in the demo, but it seems like a rather important feature
        • A pedal wheelchair might be valuable for a variety of reasons. People that cannot walk/stand for long periods of time, people with balance problems, people in recovery.

          For instance, if you have Parkinson's, one of these may let you get around without the fear of falling.

          Plus, I don't think the pedal was meant to be the sole motive force. But as an add on, to provide some daily motion for the lower extremeties, it may well help prevent further atrophy.

          Not all wheelchair users have lost complete leg functi
  • .. because if they ever get their hands on this technology, we're up poo creek without a paddle - no longer will stairs be an adequate Dalek defence.
  • OK up to a point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by R.Caley (126968) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @05:38AM (#6693651)
    But it looks to me that if you had battery probems you would be fucked. Any of us who ever had a laptop battery unexpectedly die will know how the unierse punishes reliance on that kind of technology.

    I presume the FDA testing would mean that a failure going up stairs wouldn't result in it crashing to the bottom.

    The traditional big-wheeled wheelchair is (relatively) low tech, cheap and, for those who can use it, gives real independence of the `let me on with my own life damn it' variety.

    Obviously there are classes of dissability for which a powered chair is neccesary, stick Stephen Hawking in one of these for instance. But I wonder if there is some way to bring some of this technology to a machine which wouldn't just be a oversized couch when deprived of power, and wouldn't reduce people who don't need to be to couch potatoes.

    • Obviously you haven't been out in the real world for a few years.

      Battery powered wheelchairs are EVERYWHERE.

      So apparently the handicapped community doesn't share your outdated skepticism.

      Hell, even people who don't *need* them are buying these battery powered carts for thousands of dollars.

  • by jeffkjo1 (663413) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @05:56AM (#6693688) Homepage
    The iBot is a truely amazing piece of equipment (and its self balancing device is borrowed by the Segway Scooter.)

    On top of being able to go up stairs and balance on only 2 (one wheel raised on top of the other) (designed so that the disabled can effectively "stand" at eye level with a medium height adult) It also will fit through a standard size doorway. This means that if someone is to become disabled through an accident, that they do not need to retrofit their house (or move into a new one) to continue to be functional. The iBot allows a person to traverse stairs, travel on most all terrain (pneumatic tires), and due to its function to lift a person and self balance on only 2, a person can access higher kitchen cabinets, and shelves throughout their home.

    This erases the massive price tag to retrofit a persons home, which is often paid for by workplace disability or the federal government. That is not to say that the iBot is not expensive ($20,000 at last count), but the cost of refitting a home can often be signifcantly more than that.

    I've seen the device at FIRST competitions in the past (another Kamen brainchild), and it is revolutionary.
  • by dodell (83471) <dodell@sitetroFO ... m minus language> on Thursday August 14, 2003 @06:14AM (#6693744) Homepage
    I saw this thing on Discovery once about Dean Kamen. He's a great guy. This class of like 3rd grade students all wrote him to see if he'd donate one to their science teacher who was disabled. So Dean came personally and brought one of these things to the guy and he was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo happy. He could even do dances and stuff with the thing; his wife was there too and they did like a waltz or something, and it actually worked.

    This is a great invention by a great guy, and I genuinely hope it goes to people who really need and deserve it. Teachers may not be aware of the difference they make in a kids life; I hope these kids realize what a difference they've made to their teacher's life. It's amazing.
  • USA only, why? (Score:4, Informative)

    by jez_f (605776) <jeremy@jeremyfrench.co.uk> on Thursday August 14, 2003 @06:27AM (#6693775) Homepage
    Just a bit curious, I live in the UK and know someone who may be able to make good use of one of these.
    But the whole site has a little note saying it is for USA people only, and there dosn't seem to be an international site. It seems strange that they are not interested in the rest of the world.
    Anyone know why this is?
    • Don't forget that alot of countries have their own version of the FDA. Japan has their own and can tend to be isolationist. Europe is moving towards a unified agency. Many small countries save cost and just approve/disapprove whatever the USA or other large nearby country has already reviewed.

      So while it costs nearly a BILLION dollars to get a new drug approved in the USA, a device is cheaper to get approved. But it still costs money. The USA will propbably be used as a test market and other countrie

  • Tears? (Score:3, Funny)

    by bigboard (463204) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @06:33AM (#6693791)
    It literally brought tears to my eyes

    Perhaps you should try adjusting the seat properly.
  • by dodell (83471) <dodell@sitetroFO ... m minus language> on Thursday August 14, 2003 @06:48AM (#6693840) Homepage
    I see that many people are concerned about what happens when this thing falls down. This is not a new invention. It's been tested thoroughly for the past several years and has not fallen once yet. This is not to say that faulty manufacturing could not contribute to this happening, but to give you an idea, I saw a program where someone sat in one of these things and wiggled around like a madman. It stayed up.

    As to answer peoples' questions regarding to Dean's interest in the medical sector: Dean's first invention was something to make IV injections smaller/easier around the time of the 70's (sorry, I don't remember exactly what it was or where more information is). He's been working on advancements for disabled and sick people for many years. I think it's due to commend him for his work.
    • by spineboy (22918)
      That's how he started, by inventing a small easy to use/cary infusion pump. Good for people on chemo, who need insulin infusion, etc.
      • This is a more accurate description :) Thanks for correcting the technicality, I couldn't remember exactly what it had to do with. The deal was at the time a whole ton of equipment was needed for this and it wasn't practical for patients to leave the hospital while undergoing this sort of treatment. He was a huge pioneer in this feild.
  • If Dean Kamen were to keep up this line of naming and also keep up the pricing on the product he produced, Steve Jobs will have to buy him out one day just to have the whole collection of high-cost iThings(tm). To bad he didn't name the Segway something like iWalk/iRide/iRoll.

  • Nothing yet.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tprime (673835)
    Sorry, this really isn't a big deal yet. When the insurance companies, ESPECIALLY MEDICARE, pay for this under their coverage I will be impressed. For now, it is a great tool with incredible potential for helping disabled people. Most people who will need this will not be able to foot the expense to use them.
  • If you have someone who seriously needs one of these to be able to work, then it is a good investment for society to give them outright to the person. You will easily make back that money in tax revenue from the person as well as increase the person's self esteem enough that social problems in the family etc. induced by depression are much less likely to happen.
  • Does iBot require an account on iMac as many other iApps?
  • by NecrosisLabs (125672) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @07:58AM (#6694150)
    Although Kamen had been working on this since before the Segway, I think this will have a greater impact. The Segway, let's face it, it an interesting toy that targets a pretty narrow niche. The iBot, on the other hand, will vastly improve the quality of life for a large number of people.

    Having assisted a number of people in various types of wheelchairs, the significance of this to the chair-bound cannot be overstated.
    • I totally agree. Using the tech prototyped in the Segway for something that can actually provide a meaningful use rather than a symbol of vanity and dorkyness (IMHO).

      My faith has been partially restored. now let's see if we can get that price down so people can buy it...
  • This is a great invention by a cool guy. It does have it's engineering flaws though. To work it must rely on friction that may not always be available. I doubt that it has a rocket and parachute ejector system in case the balance system fails. I am sure that Dean did his best to mitigate the risks though.
    I sincerely hope that in 20 years (or sooner) the disabled will be driving around in Dr. Xavier like chairs made by Harrier corporation and we will look back at this workhorse technology as a temporary sol
  • by tbase (666607) on Thursday August 14, 2003 @08:09AM (#6694224)
    It literally brought tears to my eyes seeing what it will mean for millions of disabled people around the world.

    Are there really millions of disabled people who can afford a US$30k wheelchair? I saw this on the news last night, and that's about what they're charging for it, apparently. Now, if it weren't going to be covered by some insurance companies, do you think it would retail for that much, or would it be closer to the roughly US$5k that a Seqway goes for? It's more complicated, but is it 6x more complicated?

    They also said it is very complicated to operate, and requires a doctor's prescription. The video they showed looked like it would be very easy for someone to get hurt if they didn't know what they were doing.
    • As MANY other folks pointed out - the reason for the approval process, and the MD prescription is simple:

      Now that is no longer "experimental", but an FDA approved treatment, Many, if not most insurance companies will pay for it

      Now, if you thing 20 or even 30k is expensive in the medical field, you haven't had to have surgery lately. If I remember right, the "Offical" bill for my Son's birth (totally normal - no C section, no complications) was in the 30k-40k range. Of course, with the deductable, etc, i
      • Yes, and therein lies one of the major problems with Healthcare in the U.S. My neice had 2 identical proceedures done over the course of a little over a year. The first time she had insurance, and the second time she didn't. You would be amazed at the difference in the bills when they know they're getting paid by an insurance company. When you consider the insurance premiums, the out of pocket was actually less without insurance.

        As long as the insurance companies blame the overpriced hospitals, hospitals b
        • Because when they get a $30K charge, they "approve" only a small portion of that amount - 50% or so and the hospital writes off the rest.

          It's a way around cost controls - the providers know that insurance will only pay a portion of the costs so they jack up the fees.

          The down side is if you don't have insurance and you get billed the "insurance" price. My aunt recently needed treatments that were not covered by her insurance company and was able to negotiate the discounted prices from the providers ahead
    • Power chairs are expensive. They cost as much as a car. My son's (he has Cerebral Palsy) chair officially cost around $22K. Having met his annual copay and deductible, it was 100% covered by my insurance (so the out of pocket cost to me was $0).

      • I seriously doubt that your son's chair costs any more to manufacture or has any more expesive parts than this chair [jamesonmedical.com] (I know it's probably a totally different design, but I'm sure it uses the same motors and controls), which lists for just over $6000, and sells for under $6k. It's certainly not your fault, you don't have a choice in the matter. But if there was a cap of say 300% or even 400% profit on products paid for by insurance companies, maybe our premiums would go down. Or maybe insurance companies wo
  • I prefer to have a MSCE carry me around. Their minds are quite malleable and are easy to train and control. Best yet, they can bring me a beer, which is the test of any fine robot.
  • Considering the size of the motor+battery on that thing, I doubt the battery on that thing lasts more than a toshiba Athlon laptop. After all beside moving the person around, it can lift him/her up a flight of stairs, heavy on the battery.

    With a different view, if that battery lasts more than 10 hours with that kind of work, why arent laptop manufacturers using it?
  • Was anybody else wondering about the remote-control aspect of it? How does it link up? Can it be hijacked?
  • A previous "iBot" [orangemicro.com]

    c'mon people. Google search before you name your product.

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