Saturday, December 26, 2009

Taking the iBOT through theft detection devices at stores

Question from a reader:

I have an unrelated iBOT question for you. The "book" says not to take the iBOT through those theft detection devices at store exits. I've obeyed this so far, but I wonder if it's an old wives tail. Any thoughts?


I asked someone at IT once. They said to not take the iBOT through them while in anything but standard function. Going through the theft detector can shut the iBOT down, resulting in it crashing from balance function to standard function. This is what I have been told, and just to be safe, I've always transitioned to standard when I go through them. I highly doubt such a thing would happen, but better safe than sorry.

Any other iBOT users have any thoughts?

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's not an iBOT, but I really like this chair

I just spoke with the guy who designed and makes these elevating wheelchairs:

Power Elevating Wheelchair


Manual Elevating Wheelchair

I'm very excited about this wheelchair because I think it's a good alternative to the iBOT. Since finding out that the iBOT will no longer be manufactured, I've worried about my future without the iBOT. I don't know how I could go back to a normal wheelchair now that I've experienced the iBOT. The chair that I've just discovered and posted links to above does not have all the features that the iBOT does. It does not climb stairs and it is not an off-road chair. It does elevate the user though, and as I've said numerous times before, being eye level with an average standing adult is the most important thing.

I'm going to call the elevating wheelchair the EW (elevating chair).

Comparing the EW and the iBOT, the following is what I like about the EW:

1.Replacing parts on the EW is easy. Parts are easily available, and it is not a complicated system, meaning just about anyone could do the work. Replacing parts on the iBOT most likely means ordering the part through Independence Technology. When the iBOT needs to be serviced, it has to be done by a trained IT tech. Average Joe can service the EW.

2.Battery life for the EW is about 5 years. Battery life for the iBOT is about 1 year.

3.Cost to replace the EW battery is $30.00. Cost to replace the iBOT batteries is $1,100.

4.Weight of the EW is 150lbs. Weight of the iBOT is nearly 300lbs.

5.The builder of the EW claims it has good shock absorption. The iBOT definitely does not have good shock absorption.

6.The EW is far more aesthetically appealing to me. I've always thought the iBOT is incredibly ugly.

7.The EW goes higher than the iBOT. My 12 year old daughter is now taller than me when I'm in Balance Function in the iBOT. I've often found myself wishing the iBOT went higher than it does.

8.The EW is very stable. The builder says it's 100% tip proof. Although I feel very safe in the Balance Function of the iBOT, it can suddenly transition out of Balance. This doesn't mean it tips over. It just means that it suddenly goes from 2 wheels to 4 wheels. This transition is not smooth. That is not a good thing for someone who lives with pain or someone with osteoporsis or an unstable spine.

Comparing the EC and the iBOT, this is what I like about the iBOT:

1.The iBOT is "cool". It just is. It's fun (usually) seeing the way people react when they see it balancing on 2 wheels.

2.The iBOT has 4 Wheel Drive Function. The EW does not have off-road capabilities.

3.The iBOT climbs curbs. The EW does not.

At this point, I would not trade my iBOT for the EW. While there are numerous things about the EW that are better than the iBOT (IMO), I do enjoy the 4 Wheel Drive and curb climbing functions quite a bit. I do think the EW might be a good alternative to the iBOT though. If my iBOT were to die tomorrow, and I had the money, I would have a serious look at the EW.

Production is 6 to 8 weeks for the EW. He has been making them for about 10 years now. Some private insurance companies are covering the cost, but like with the iBOT, Medicare is not.

If you have been thinking about purchasing a used iBOT, I think the EW is something you should consider. The cost for the manual EW is about $10,000. The cost for the power EW is $15,933. HOWEVER, there is going to be an significant increase in the cost of the EW most likely within the next couple of weeks. If the EW interests you, find out more about it now. He told me that he will hold the price at $15,933 for only another week or two. You can call him at 805-797-7989.

Buying a used iBOT

I'm going to start this entry by copying and pasting the paragraph I ended my entry with:

I should say that you shouldn't believe everything I write! I won't intentionally give false information here, but I could possibly misunderstand information that I get from calling IT. Especially now because in one week from today I'm going to be having a major surgery and I'm quite worried about it. Although I just spoke with IT less than an hour ago, I'm really not thinking clearly these days. If you have questions, it is best to call IT. They are very helpful. Their number is 1800-INDE-NOW.

IT will not service any iBOTs that are sold since they stopped production nearly a year ago. That means that you could buy a used iBOT, but IT will not service it, calibrate it, or even sell you parts. The reason for this is because they no longer have anyone to train the iBOT user. I bought my iBOT used, and they will continue to service my iBOT and sell me parts, but that is because I bought my iBOT before production stopped and I went through the training. While I am very sad for the people who have recently purchased a used iBOT, or are thinking about buying one, IT's policy makes sense to me. I know I wouldn't be comfortable using an iBOT without proper training.

I really wish I had something positive to say to those of you who recently purchased a used iBOT or who are thinking of purchasing one. Unfortunately, I believe you are simply out of luck. Unless there is a way for you to get it calibrated to your weight, I definitely would not recommend purchasing one. Also, I think trying to use the stair climbing function without proper training is a very, very bad idea. : (

Replacing the Batteries

I've had my iBOT for a little over two years now and I have not needed to replace the batteries yet. According to IT, the batteries on most iBOTs need to be replaced yearly.

The cost of the batteries is $550 each and there are two of them. New batteries come with instructions and the iBOT owner can change them on their own. If the user prefers to have an IT tech do it, they would only have to pay the service charge which is $125.00.

The battery needs to be replaced when you start getting frequent alarms. For example, I used to get a low battery alarm when it was down to one or two bars. Now I get the alarm when I'm down to 3 bars. At some point it is going to start giving me alarms when it's at 5+ bars and that is when I need to start thinking about replacing them.

More frequent deep discharges will increase the life of the battery. Also, doing a few deep discharges in a row will help. For example, I told IT that I was getting the alarm when it gets down to 3 bars. She told me that I should do 3 deep discharges in a row and that should take care of the premature alarms.

I should say that you shouldn't believe everything I write! I won't intentionally give false information here, but I could possibly misunderstand information that I got from IT. Especially now because in one week from today I'm going to be having a major surgery and I'm quite worried about it. Although I just spoke with IT less than an hour ago, I'm really not thinking clearly these days. If you have questions, it is best to call IT. They are very helpful. Their number is 1800-INDE-NOW.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Comments and Questions

I've never been anywhere in Balance Function without at least one person making a comment or asking a question. The following are some of the things I hear: (If I only heard the comment once I put a -once- behind it... No -once- means I've heard it mutliple times)

Whoa, that's so cool!

How do you do that?

Do you feel like you are going to tip over?

If someone accidently bumped you, would you tip over?

That's like the Segway.

Is that the same technology as the Segway?

I've never seen one of those before.

I saw that on TV once, but I've never seen one in real life.

How much did you pay for it?

I bet that cost you 4 to 5 thousand dollars. -once-

Are you balancing that yourself?

Is that an iBOT?

What is that called?

It's nice that it keeps you up high so you stay out of the water. -once-

Does that thing climb stairs?

I wouldn't believe it if I didn't see it with my own eyes.

Is that a Dean Kamen invention? -once-

Cool, now architects won't have to worry about ramps and stuff (after I told him that climbs stairs). -once-

I want one! (Coming from a walking teenager) No really, I do! -once-

That'd be great for my dad.

How nice that you can talk to people eye to eye.

Where'd you get that?

Oh look, it even has turn signals on it! (I don't know why, but people get really excited about this. Nevermind that it is balancing on two wheels... it has turn signals!)

Are you doing that on purpose? -once- (I think this one was my all time favorite. He was drunk and he came up running to me from behind and he was very concerned.)

How fast does it go?

Have you ever tipped over?

That's good for being able to reach things up high.

How long does the charge last?

That is sick! (meaning cool)

That is so rad!

If I ever get put in a wheelchair, I want one like that! -once-

You must have incredible balance!

I'm sorry that you need a wheelchair, but since you do, it's great that you have this one!

That looks like fun!

That looks like fun but I wouldn't want to be in one for more than about 2 minutes.

I will add more as I hear them.

p.s. The most common question I get when I'm in my manual chair is, "Wanna race?" If I had a nickle for everytime I heard that one...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

iBOT air travel tips

Have you taken your iBOT on an airplane? And if so, how did it go?

A few months after I got my iBOT I went to Disneyland with my daughter, mother, and sister. I wanted to take my iBOT but I was worried about two things.

1. The airlines are notorious for messing up power chairs. I've never traveled with a power chair, but I've read numerous stories about the damage done to other people's chairs. I don't doubt the stories one bit. I know that when I travel with my manual, it often comes back to me not quite the same as it was before I surrendered it to the baggage handlers.

2. Transportation from airport to hotel. The iBOT does not fit in the trunk of taxi cabs.

I debated for a long time about taking my iBOT or my manual. I ended up taking my manual. If I were to do it again, I'd take my iBOT.


I make almost all of my purchases on one credit card. Over the years I've accumalated enough points for 2 free airline tickets to Europe. I'm thinking about taking my daughter to Barcelona during 2010 spring break. I admit that I'm concerned about the airlines breaking the bot, but traveling with the bot is one of the reasons I bought it in the first place.

If and when my daughter and I go to Europe, I'm taking the iBOT.

Honestly, if I didn't have the iBOT, I doubt I would even plan a trip to Europe.

I've been to Europe in a manual chair, but that was when I was in my early 20s and there was always young strong men to help me with any obstacle I might come across. Now that I'm middle aged, the young 'uns ain't so eager to help. At 20 years old, I would be offered help before I knew I needed it. At 39, I often have to ask for it, and the older I get, the less comfortable I am doing that.

If and when we go, I'll also take my manual in case something did happen to the iBOT. Getting to Barcelona with a broken wheelchair and no back-up wouldn't be much fun.

Copied from Independence Technologies here are some air travel tips:

We are providing you with some air travel tips that can help make your exploration to new locations smoother. Preparation is the key to success, so please review the following tips to guide you in your travel.

Notify airlines that you’ll be taking your iBOT® Mobility System and discuss loading/placement on the plane. If asked about the iBOT® Mobility System’s folded dimensions, please provide the following:
Length: 32 - 36 in. (without legrest)
Width: 25 - 29 in (dependent on armrest position)
Height: 44 in (Non-fold flat seat) 29 in (Fold-flat seat)
Approx. Weight: 289 lbs unoccupied
Recommend removing all removable components to prevent damage i.e. leg rests, cushion (if removable), User Control Panel, and place in a separate bag. (Note: Make sure when you are re-attaching the UCP Cable with the UCP, you line up the keyed features between the UCP Cable and the UCP. Once in position rotate the collar a quarter turn to lock the UCP Cable in place.)
It is recommended that you protect any of the plastic components to prevent damage:
UCP Cable- Wrap the connector with bubble wrap and tuck it into the swingarm to protect it.
Back Shroud containing the reflectors and Assist Button-Wrap some foam padding around it to protect from unwanted damage.
Instruct the airline carrier on how to release and engage the brake lever and move the product. Point out the tie-down points for attachment inside the plane. Remember to bring your travel placard along and tape it to the product in order to educate your arrival airport attendants!
If the airlines recommend battery removal, point out the batteries are bolted onto the device, they are NiCad batteries (not lead acid, they are "dry cell"), and they are not operable unless powered ON, which is prevented by removing the UCP.
Depending on your travel location and the terrains you may encounter, it is recommended that you take a few spare tubes and tires. It is better to be prepared.
*One of our world traveler owners reported using an oversized raincoat to wrap around the iBOT® Mobility System to help protect the seat upholstery when in the cargo area of the plane.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sunday, May 24, 2009

About the iBOT test flight incident...

I'd just like to say that I do not believe the iBOT malfunctioned when it when down my porch steps. I believe it was 100% user error. On top of that, I was very impressed that the iBOT did not tip over, and was in no way damaged.

I'd also like to say that although my wrist still hurts at times, I would take my iBOT and a wrist that hurts for the rest of my life over a painfree wrist and no iBOT.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Getting the iBOT back on the market

Dean Kamen and others are working to get the iBOT back in production.

From Alan T Brown's blog:

I met with Dean Kamen and we discussed our game plan for getting the iBOT wheelchair made again. We know that we are both totally committed to make sure our goverment understand how the iBOT changes peoples lives who use the chair and the people around them.

For more, see his blog here:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Two weeks after my iBOT flight

The bruise is mostly gone. I still have some wrist pain though. Strangely, the pain seems to be getting worse. I think I've been using it too much lately.

I talked to IT today and they said that they came up with nothing conclusive about what happened. Things get recorded in the black box only when in Balance, 4WD, or Stair Climbing. I was in Standard when it happened, therefore there wasn't anything in the black box about the incident.

I guess I'll never know for sure, but I'm 99% sure that when I got stuck on the threshold, I pushed the joystick forward thinking it would give it more power to get over the bump. When it suddenly became unstuck, it had that command stored up and it carried out what I had told it to do. I'll have to look in the manual to see if there is any warning about this. If there isn't, there should be.

The other possibility is that the dog leash got stuck on the joystick and pulled it forward. This is highly unlikely, especially considering the fact that I didn't run into my dog at all during the incident. She was on my left side, I went to the right. Had her leash been caught, it would have gone to the left, not right. I'm certain she was on my left side because had she been on the right side, I most definitely would have run into her.

Live and learn. I do not plan on anymore flights in my current iBOT. Maybe the next generation of the iBOT will have flying capabilities! :D

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wheelchair Kamikaze

This doesn't have much to do with the iBOT, (although he does talk about being face to ass level quite a bit in his videos), but this guy is so funny.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

6 days after the iBOT test flight

I think I've finally recovered emotionally from last weeks incident. My arm is still hurting. I ended up going to the doctor today. X-rays were taken. No breaks. It still hurts to push myself and do transfers though.

Day 5

Day 6

An IT tech came over to retrieve the data from the bot. I'll probably give them a call tomorrow to find out if they were able to determine what happened. Someone had left a comment here saying that there would be no info to retrieve since it didn't throw a wrench, but the IT tech said it would all be there. No offense to the anonymous person who left that comment, and even though it seems you are quite familiar with the iBOT, I don't know who you are. Therefore, I'm more trusting of the IT tech.

One of the ladies who saw me go down the stairs stopped by to see how I was doing. She said I was going so fast and she thinks my wheels never even touched the steps. Oh how I wish I had that on video! I could put it up on youtube and say, "Look how brave I am!" LOL. But seriously, I still feel extremely lucky that I didn't get seriously hurt or killed.

p.s. IT tech looked over the bot and said he didn't see any damage.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Update on my injuries

My arm/wrist doesn't hurt quite as much today. Doing transfers is very painful though, so I'm doing that as little as possible. I've had lots of people tell me I should go to the doctor, but that would involve numerous transfers, and I don't want to do that.

So pretty...

It itches like crazy today

As for other injuries, my shoulder is pretty raw today. Also, I originally did not think I bumped my head. Turns out I did. I've got a bump on the back of my head, but it only hurts when I touch it. Also, my neck hurts today.

I was talking to a friend this morning who also has an iBOT and he said that he has noticed that when the casters get stuck on something, it makes the iBOT "whip". I'm pretty sure this is what happened yesterday. It whipped and was out of control for a few seconds. I don't know, but maybe this happens with all powerchairs?

As for why it didn't tip over on me.... that is still a mystery. I think maybe I was going so fast that when I launched off that top step, I kinda flew down the steps. I looked at the landing this morning, and I can see where my footrest hit the landing and skidded for a few feet. I took video of it, but haven't uploaded it yet. I'll hopefully do that tonight.

I'm wanting to know exactly what happened so that a) I'll be able to possibly prevent it from happening again, b) I will know what to do if it does happen again, and c) iBOT engineers can better understand what happened and can maybe fix the problem in their future designs.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I had an iBOT accident today

I was leaving my house this morning to take my dogs for a walk. I was in my iBOT, in Standard Function, and in Speed 2. There is about a 1 inch threshold to get over to get out my front door. If I hit it straight on, the iBOT casters get stuck on it. If i hit it at a bit of an angle, one caster will pop up onto it and then the other one will go up and over it as well. Today I hit it straight on. My dog was really, really excited to be going for a walk and so instead of wasting time by backing up my iBOT and hitting it at an angle, I decided to give it a little more power and I pushed the joystick forward. I held the joystick completely forward for just a second or two and right before I decided it wasn't going to work and I had to backup and hit it at an angle (or sometimes I transition to 4 Wheel Drive), it popped up over it. It didn't stop though after popping over it. At this point, I knew I was in trouble and so both my hands were trying to grab onto something so that I could pull myself out of the chair. Now normally after I get over the threshold, I turn to the left and go down my ramp. This time, completely out of my control, the iBOT went to the right, which is where the steps are. I saw I was headed for the steps and I couldn't stop the iBOT and also coudn't get myself out of the chair and I screamed, "No, no, no!" as in "No, I'm not ready to die!" because I knew I was about to go down those steps. Down the steps I went (there are five of them). I stayed in the iBOT down all 5 stairs. It was super fast and I think it was at full speed when it launched. I'm thinking it kinda flew down the stairs because it didn't tip over at all. It came to a complete stop about 2 feet from the bottom step. At this point, I fell out of the chair and I landed on my right side in my driveway. The iBot did not tip over and it did not run over me or land on me. Some ladies were walking by at the time and they picked me up and put me back in. The iBOT did not throw a wrench, and I drove it back into the house with no problems. I have a small scrape on my right knee, my right shoulder is scraped up, and my left wrist is swollen and bruised. I don't know what happened to my wrist but I think maybe I injured it when I was trying to grab onto something before I went down the steps. Amazingly I didn't break any bones (despite my osteoporsis) and I didn't even bonk my head. I'm finding it quite strange that I got away with such minor injuries. The iBOT does not seem to be damaged in any way.

I called IT. They are going to send a tech out to read the black box.

I suspect one of the following happened:

1) I don't know if this is possible, because I don't understand how this sort of thing works, but I'm wondering if when I was stuck on the threshold and holding the joystick forward, if it had that forward command "stored up", and so when it finally did get over the threshold it kept going. As for why it turned to the right instead of going straight forward, maybe I had been pushing it a bit to the right.

2) Maybe the joystick got stuck. It doesn't appear to be sticky. I know for sure I did not have my hand on the joystick after clearing the threshold. One time my grandma was backing out of her driveway and she swears she had her foot on the break, but she must have had it on the gas. She ended up crashed into the neighbor's house accross the street. I know I didn't have my hand on the joystick though because I was trying to grab things.

3) It's possible the the dog leash caught the joystick and was pulling it forward. I don't think this is what happened because I'm sure I dropped the leash as soon as I knew I was in trouble. Perhaps it snagged it though after I let go. But also, the dog wouldn't go to the right. Whenever we leave the house, we go to the left, so it makes no sense.

4) A person who uses an iGlide wrote this after she read about what happened to me: "I'm very interested in hearing what the iBot folks have to say. I had some malfunctions with my first iGlide (far more comical than serious -- the chair started going in circles backward at top speed), which all ended up being caused by people nearby using the pager function on their cell phones. Is the iBot also sensitive to cell phone towers, signals and such?"

Out of those 4, I'm thinking #1 caused it. #2 would be my second choice.

It was extremely scary. I was very calm right after it happened and the ladies who picked me up commented on that. But then I got inside and started crying and shaking. I cried for about 2 hours. I think that was partly due to the fact that it was terrifying, and partly due to the fact that I knew I could have been hurt badly but I somehow got away with minor injuries. I don't understand why the iBOT did not land on me, but if it had, it could have been disasterous. The thing weighs nearly 300 pounds. I'm fairly small and I weigh about 90 pounds. It seems to me that when the casters went down that first step, it should have tipped over forward and tumbled on top of me. As much as I hate the footrest system because it sticks out so far, I think it prevented it from tipping over.

Will I stop using the iBOT? Absolutely not! I still love it. I don't know if it malfunctioned or if the dog leash caught it. Even if it did malfunction, continuing to use the iBOT is worth the risk. Driving a car is quite risky, but I won't be giving that up either. I will just try to be extra careful when around stairs. I will also start thinking about how to get out of the chair if I'm ever in that situation again. I should have flipped my armrest up and then thrown myself out of the chair. That is what I will do next time, if there is a next time.

One more thought... the iBOT is really powerful. I'm sure it has to be powerful for the 4-Wheel Drive Funtion, but I'm wondering if it could be made so that it is not so powerful when in Standard Funtion? I know it has Speed 1 and Speed 2, and I suppose I should have been in Speed 1 until I got to the sidewalk. It seems to me that Speed 1 is very powerful, but at the same time, it is too slow. This is the only powerchair I've ever had, so I don't have anything to compare it to, but I've always thought that the power was a bit too much.

I'd just like to say that I do not believe the iBOT malfunctioned when it when down my porch steps. I believe it was 100% user error. On top of that, I was very impressed that the iBOT did not tip over, and was in no way damaged.

I'd also like to say that although my wrist still hurts at times, I would take my iBOT and a wrist that hurts for the rest of my life over a painfree wrist and no iBOT.

Friday, April 17, 2009

YES! There is good news for the iBOT!

A must read article published this month:


I'm so very excited! I don't know what exactly is going on, but I've heard from more than once source that a big announcement regarding the iBOT will be released soon. It's going to happen on Tuesday, April 21st (my birthday!) at 10:00am EST.

Go here for more info:

iBOT users feeling guilty?

I was just chatting with another iBOT user and we were talking about how we feel guilty when we see other people in chairs who don't have an iBOT. As I've said here before, I really want EVERYONE who could benefit from an iBOT to have an iBOT. It truly is life-changing and it's unfair that only the rich or lucky have them.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Extreme X8

Looks like a nice 4-Wheel Drive chair:

Sunday, March 8, 2009

iBOTs given to vets this weekend?

As I was cooking dinner tonight, the news was on in the other room and I heard "the inventor of the Segway...". I hurried to see what was being said but only caught the tail end of it. Apparently this weekend a bunch of iBOTs were given to vets. I've done an internet search, but didn't come up with anything. Did anyone else hear about this? I'm betting it's all the demos that they gave away.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Do you know of any iBOTs for sale?

Hi I want to buy an IBOT, even a "used" IBOT.

Alfonso, have you checked with Independence Technology? I'm sorry I do not know of anyone currently selling their iBOT. I know at least one has been sold on eBay, but that was quite a while ago. If I ever hear about one being sold, I will certainly post about it here. Good luck!

iBOT users might be interested...

Comment left recently:

My name is William Lidwell. I am writing a book on design that discusses the iBot, and would like to include commentary from someone who has actually used the product in depth. Would you consider visiting the site,, and writing a brief comment (75-100 words) summarizing your experience with the iBot. Or, if you would prefer, you can submit commentary to me directly at xxx.

If comments are moderated, please keep this request private so I can avoid spam to my email, or delete my email address from the post.

Thanks and best,


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Friday, February 6, 2009

Toyota's i-unit

Toyota's i-Swing

More iReal

Thanks to Simon:

Top Gear motoring program did a piece about this on the BBC.

Quite a funny piece, but the interesting bit is the estimated price.

In the UK, the BBC said it will cost about £2000.00, yes, two thousand pounds, I didn't miss a zero out!

No way! 2000.00 pounds equals less than $3000, doesn't it? That is awesome.

I know little about the iReal, but from what I've heard, I compare it to the iBot as follows:

iBOT = $26,000 (if they were still for sale)
iReal = Less than $3000.00! That is remarkable. I'm guessing it's so much less expensive because it's not considered a medical device.

iBOT top speed is 8mph
iReal top speed is 20 mph
I like!

iBOT - arms move for easy transfer
iReal - looks like arms don't move.

iBOT - super ugly. Reminds me of my very first clunker 30 years ago.
iReal- looks very cool. Very modern.

iBOT - able to climb stairs, but is pretty much useless IMO.
iReal - does not climb stairs

iBOT - prescription only
iReal - sounds like anyone could buy one.

iBOT - four wheel drive
iReal - don't know if it can handle sand, etc.

The iReal does seeem quite a bit longer than the iBOT (when the wheel in back is out).

I'm excited about this... although I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Good to see big companies working on stuff like this:

A good point I just received via email from an AB:

the toyota thing looked cool even if not directly appropriate for you. with the aging population, obese population, vets, increased survival rates for injury, and lower costs for the electronics, better batteries and better drives there will be ongoing cool things for "you people" ;) lol

And another comment from a reader....

I've been on my own quest to understand the demise of the iBot, because I'm a customer for a similar technology that costs even more, has even fewer users, and doesn't even exist yet as a product--the advanced prosthetic arm.

I think that the source of the original R&D dollars that created the technology, the terms of the licensing agreement between DEKA and IT, the manufacturing costs, etc. would all be interesting things to know as part of understanding why the effort didn't work, and, more importantly, how it could be different to succeed.

We don't have an example yet of a successful product to point to, but I've started in the belief that open source hardware/software or open design are the best ways to solve the problems of underserved markets like yours and mine. Maybe an "open iBot" is the solution.

Obviously, most people who need any product aren't interested in spending years helping with the R&D necessary to get it rolling, but that's the way I've come to feel about the problem.

Anyway, I'd love to hear more about what you've found, your final best guess on the number sold, and any more thoughts in general either on your blog, or by email to

Jon Kunhiolm

Jon, is it the Dean Kamen advanced prosthetic arm that you are interested in?

You said this technology costs even more than the iBOT... how much?

Your website is a very interesting idea. I haven't read all of it yet. Do you feel like it has helped? I'm not sure when you put up the site... maybe it was just recently and not much has happened yet?

I haven't found out any more information regarding the iBOT. My final best guess on how many were sold is less than 1,000.

Please keep in touch.

Comment from a reader

I don't know if this is of help, but CTS formed a company called Next Mobility, who repackaged and upgraded the iGlide, and now sell it under the name of the Tailwind.

There is some info here about it:

I wonder if they will take on the iBot as well?


Thanks Simon. I certainly hope someone will take on the iBOT.

Comment from a reader

Michelle said...

I was just getting ready to perhaps buy an I-Bot, and when I looked for a site I found you, and found they aren't made anymore!
I am so sad and appalled! As someone with Multiple Sclerosis, I know that most of the MS patients take drugs that cost (their insurer or Medicare) $10,000-$25,000 per year. Why these are covered but equipment is only covered if deemed necessary to move around your home seems absolutely nonsensical to me.

I agree, people have no idea about this. I've had people assume that my Segway (which I use for disability reasons) was paid for by my insurer [which, of course, it wasn't]. People have no idea how messed up the system is - big expensive drugs with not a whole lot of impact are covered. Life changing equipment is not. Aaarghh!
January 27, 2009 9:13 PM

Hi Michelle,

I'm so sorry you can't order an iBOT. : (
Yes, the system is messed up. It's infuriating, isn't it?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Feeling deflated again

I received a call from IT. The guy who I talked with earlier today at CTS (the manufacturers of the iBOT) called IT and told them I was expressing frustration. So IT called me and asked if they could answer any of my questions.

I told him that I think the only way the iBOT could be sold successfully is if Medicare changed their guidelines. He agreed that that was a large part of the problem. I told him that I was very frustrated and didn't know how to go about trying to get those guidelines changed. He said he knows how I feel as he's been dealing with the same thing. J&J has been trying to get them to change their guidelines for the past few years and have had no success. If they can't do anything about it, how can I do anything?

Maybe I'm wasting my time and energy.

I've spent all day researching, writing, calling about the iBOT and I haven't gotten anywhere.

Anyway, the guy at IT gave me his number if I have any more questions. I am going to call him tomorrow because I do have a question for him. Up until now, it was the sales reps who would come teach assistants the stair climbing function. I'm wondering who will do that now? If anyone? I'm guessing all the sales reps no longer work for IT.

Does anyone have anything else they'd like me to ask him?

This is how many iBOTs have been made

Or at least approximately.

I won't say who told me this because I don't think the person was supposed to tell me, but when I said that I suspected between 500 and 1000 iBOTs have been made, the person told me that I was just a little shy. The person said not much more than 1000 TOTAL iBOTs have been made. As for how many are being used, I don't know. Obviously many are used as demos.

The VIN number on the iBOT is located on a white sticker on the front on the iBOT. The first few numbers indicate the month and year the bot was made and the last numbers indicate how many were made up to that point. It looks like mine was the 100th one made, although I can't see it very well and will ask my daughter to verify this when she is home. Not that it really matters, but I am curious.

So, if you have a new iBOT, please look at your VIN number for me? There are definitely less than 1000 iBOT users out there.

I keep thinking about the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car?" and I picture 1000 iBOTs collecting dust in a warehouse somewhere.

Who manufactures the iBOT?

I asked Customer service today the name of the company who manufactured the iBOT. She didn't know, but she said they are located in Canton Michigan. Does anyone know of a way to find out the name of the company?

How many iBOTs have been sold?

I asked IT once how many iBOTs have been sold. They told me that they couldn't tell me. I called Customer Service today and I asked again. Again, she said that she couldn't tell me. I asked her why and she said she didn't know but it was "company policy".

I've heard about 500 - 1000 were sold. Does anyone know of a way to find out? Oh, I just thought of something... I heard there is a number on every iBOT somewhere, although I don't know where. I was told the number matches it's production number. Someone who has a newer iBOT, could you please look for a number and report back to me? I'll see if I can find the number on mine after lunch... (Even though mine isn't a newer one, at least I can try to find where it is located)

Attention Scott!

You wrote:

I would like to suggest the following:

1) Make sure we have a very clear understanding as to why J&J made this decision as well as get the names of the individuals involved in the final decision.

2) If Medicare's denial was the ultimate deathblow perhaps that's where we should focus our efforts.

3) Once we understand the factors involved I think we should leverage the power of both the media and the Internet to tell the world exactly how life-changing this device is.

3a) Media-Contact anyone that's ever done a story on the IBOT. I'm talking Dateline, 60 Minutes, CNN etc.

3b) I know some of us have used Youtube to show the IBOT off and I think it would be a great place to share our stories and build public support for the continued production of the IBOT.

As far as getting the names of additional IBOT users... perhaps we should start with the IBOT website and the folks that have provided testimonials. I have contact information for three individuals as well as another discussion forum

Just some thoughts... let me know what you think.

1) I just called customer service. I asked if the main reason for stopping production of the iBOT was because of Medicare's refusal to pay for it. She said, "I can't say that". She then read a script to me and it was quite lengthy. I couldn't write it all down, but if you want to hear it, call 877-794-3125. She did say that the demand for the iBOT has not proven sufficient to obtain a sustainable market. She also said something about "challenging reimbursement". Which to me means that because people can't afford to buy iBOTs and because insurance companies refuse to pay for them, there isn't enough demand. I did not ask for names of who made the final decision.

2) So yes, based on what I wrote above, it sounds like Medicare's denial was the ultimate deathblow. I agree that we need to focus our attention there.

3) Agreed. Have you contacted anyone?

Regarding getting the names of additional iBOT users, the iBOTnow website no longer exists. Oh how I wish I had written down the names of the iBOT owners listed there... especially the lawyer and the people in politics.

Attention Irv!

You wrote:

It seems to me more possible that someone might step in to save the iBOT or a version of it. And maybe that French wheelchair we looked at earlier would be better. Maybe Dean Kamen would be interested in rescuing his invention.

I've heard other people say they think someone will take over the marketing of the iBOT, but who? Obviously J&J wasn't making money from it, so why would anyone else take it on? I HOPE someone does take over and make an even better wheelchair, but since the iBOT has proven to be a failure, I don't see that happening. : (

Regrading Dean Kamen... maybe he will rescue his invention. I do know of an iBOT user who is going to be meeting with Mr. Kamen sometime soon, so I'm very anxious to find out what comes out of that.

Attention Nancy!

You wrote:

I plan on doing the following:

1) Attaching a sign to the back of my iBot that reads something like leaving the home should not be considered a luxury. I will look up the official Medicare wording in order to make the sign and I plan on having handouts with me explaining how Medicare funds wheelchairs. Since home arrest is considered a punishment for a crime, I don't think that having disabled people confined to their homes should be something that our country supports. Our government did not allow negotiations with pharmaceutical companies when they enacted Medicare part D. Why should medical equipment be any different?

2) Writing all of my elected representatives and explaining to them how important the iBot has been to improving my quality of life. I will also point out Medicare/Medicaid's position that wheelchairs should only be funded if a person needs a wheelchair to get around his or her own home. I am not a very good writer. If anyone out there can compose a letter to this effect, I would appreciate it.

3) Sending a letter similar to the one I write to my elected representatives to all of the local media. I don't think that many people are aware of Medicare's stance on funding wheelchairs.

Nancy, have you found out the official Medicare wording on their guidelines for funding wheelchairs? Are you still planning on making a sign for the back of your bot? I think that and handing out info is an excellent idea. You ARE a good writer! Have you composed anything to send to representatives and the media?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Ah, I'm so frustrated. I've been thinking
about what can be done to save the iBOT and
there is a tornado in my head. I can't
get my thoughts in order.

I really appreciate all the comments people
have left. Please keep me updated if there
is anything you are working on. I'm happy
to follow, but very reluctant to lead.

As for a bunch of botters getting together,
I think that idea is out. Many botters aren't
willing to travel on the airlines with their
bot (including myself) out of fear of the
airlines destroying their chair.