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.