This was in my biweekly ACM TechNews mailing....
What About Kamen's Other Machine?
Wired News (12/07/01); Delio, Michelle
The unveiling of Dean Kamen's Segway Human Transporter has taken most of the spotlight off its precursor, the Independence 3000 IBot Transporter. A joint product of Kamen's company, DEKA, and Johnson & Johnson, the IBot is an all-terrain wheelchair that can switch between two- and four-wheel modes, lift users to a standing height, and negotiate stairs and other obstacles using an array of sensors, microprocessors, and gyroscopes. But the device is still awaiting FDA approval after three years. The FDA has ordered clinical trials that will determine if the vehicle's systems are redundant and that proper failure safeguards are in place, according to attorney Michael Abram. "It all should add up to a safe machine of course," he says. "The ironic thing, though, is that in making sure it was somewhat affordable for consumers via insurance coverage, they have probably sent their development costs into the stratosphere." Johnson & Johnson wants to have the IBot prescribed by physicians rather than sold directly to consumers. The Segway Human Transporter is expected to hit the market in late 2002, about the same time that Independence Technology expects the FDA will clear the IBot for consumer use.