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Why Toyota Saving the iBot Wheelchair Is a Big Deal

Deka Research's iBot is poised for a comeback. The high-tech wheelchair, which can climb stairs, elevate users to eye-level with peers and balance on difficult terrain, was an exciting prospect for those with limited mobility when it was introduced in the early 2000's. But it was off of the market within a decade due to high prices.

Inventor Dean Kamen announced this weekend that Deka Research has formed a partnership with Toyota to bring the iBot back to the market. The car manufacturer will license Deka's balancing technologies (Kamen also invented the Segway) for "medical rehabilitative therapy and potentially other purposes." The partnership was announced at the annual convention of the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Overall, this revival is a big deal, signifying the transportation industry's interest in providing better mobility tools to people at every level of physical ability.

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The elephant in the room is the cost. When production stopped in 2009, Deka priced the iBot at $25,000. Deka hasn't mentioned how much its next iBot will be, but its presumed that the partnership with Toyota is designed to make the device more affordable.