Toyota is bringing back Dean Kamen's stair-climbing wheelchair

The next-gen iBot is in development.

Remember Dean Kamen's iBot wheelchair? Its uniquely adjustable wheel orientation gave patients the freedom to climb stairs and effectively stand upright, but its high price ($25,000) knocked it off the market in 2009. Well, it's poised for a comeback: Toyota is partnering with Dean Kamen's DEKA to develop the next generation of iBot. Neither company is committing to a release date, but they've shown a familiar-looking prototype (below) that gives a hint of what to expect.

This isn't just about giving Kamen's technology a second shot. The deal also lets Toyota license DEKA's balancing tech for both rehab therapy and "potentially other purposes." In other words, you might see iBot tech find its way into other health care devices, personal transport and even robots. No matter what, this is good news for the wheelchair-bound who want to enjoy more freedom.

Next-generation iBot wheelchair prototype