Mobius Mobility Plans iBOT Relaunch This Summer
- By Laurie Watanabe
- Apr 17, 2019
The stair-climbing iBOT power wheelchair could be available for sale once again, starting this summer.
Mobius Mobility, the New Hampshire-based company selling the iBOT, is aiming for a third-quarter 2019 launch, according to its Web site and e-mails it’s sending to prospective customers.
In the FAQ page on its Web site, Mobius Mobility notes that the soon-to-be-launched iBOT differs from the previous iBOT 4000 in several ways, including “reduced weight, new battery technology, streamlined user controls, and the addition of a wider selection of seating options.”
But the signature iBOT ability — climbing stairs with assistance from its user — remains intact. Mobius Mobility said about the consumer’s role in operating the stair-climbing feature, “a user should be able to grab hold of a railing with both hands.”
As with prior iterations of the iBOT, the new version will not be available through complex rehab technology (CRT) providers. Instead, the iBOT needs to be purchased directly from Mobius Mobility, and iBOT repairs will also need to be done at Mobius Mobility’s Manchester, N.H., headquarters.
Currently, consumers who receive prescriptions for iBOT will need to travel to Mobius Mobility’s headquarters to be fitted and trained. The company is not reimbursing for travel expenses, but said on its Web site that it hoped to “be expanding our geographic reach in the future.”
Mobius Mobility won’t file insurance claims on behalf of consumers, but said it “will provide the user or clinician appropriate paperwork to file a claim.”
A summer 2019 launch of the iBOT would mark the first time in more than 10 years that the device has been for sale. Independence Technology, the previous distributor/manufacturer, stopped selling its iBOT 4000 in January 2009.
Despite attracting a core following of fans and becoming popular particularly among injured veterans, iBOT never gained significant traction in the mainstream CRT industry. Independence Technology worked with several major rehabilitation hospitals in the United States, and clinicians at those facilities performed the clinical evaluations, fittings and consumer training.
Ultimately, iBOT’s price tag — $26,100 at the time the chair was pulled off the market — heavily contributed to its failure. Despite its significant cost, iBOT largely functioned as a standard consumer power chair, without CRT powered seating options such as tilt, recline or elevating legrests. iBOT’s stair-climbing ability was considered not medically necessary, and though the iBOT’s ability to balance on two wheels made the chair capable of seat elevation, that positioning option was and is still not covered by Medicare.
iBOT also had a limited weight capacity of 250 lbs. and could not accept alternative driving controls.
By the end, Independence Technology told Mobility Management that demand for iBOT was lacking, with units sold described as being “in the hundreds, not the thousands.”
In May 2016, Toyota Motor North America announced an agreement with iBOT inventor Dean Kamen to develop and launch the “next generation” of the power mobility device. Mobius Mobility exhibited at last month’s International Seating Symposium in Pittsburgh.
Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.