To begin with the user needs to
be assessed by Independence Technology staff... Then they
are sat in the chair and the right parameters "programmed
in" by laptop to ensure the chair is safe for them, and that
a C of G "fit" has been correctly set up. This does not take
too long. But your max weight had better be less than 17
stone! The chair will tell the computer you are lying!
I had to Diet for a year and lose 4 stone before I could try
Review starts here!
A side note
- 16 December 03 - James (below) e-mailed me about this
review and was a little concerned. So I have decided to add
this note. Please remember that this review / short test is of a PRE-PRODUCTION
chair. There are some changes made on the one
that's supplied to you, but I think these are mainly
footplates and armrest related?
James has offered me another test of the production one
as it will be supplied to the public. Frankly
considering that the "Standard
Modes" problems mentioned below are caused by
programming (which is FDA approved presumably - which
takes time to re-assess?) and C of
G positioning, I don't see how it can "steer" any differently.
We will see very soon hopefully! This
page will be updated as soon as I know for sure.
This chair has 4 user modes.
chosen by pushing buttons on the joystick "screen" and
are basically as follows:
James drives it out onto my driveway carefully,
It's remote controlled! >>>
Bigger Picture 2048
Bigger Picture 640
Balancing Mode - The best first!
It has the ability to
"stand up" on two wheels and BALANCE. In the photo
below my hand is only touching the van because I was amazed
I could reach it! For the first time in 5 years!
It can and
does smoothly drive around like this, entirely safely! It
feels very unnerving at first! It is however quite safe!
This is the mode that this chair will be used in when
travelling along pavements and
roads, shopping centres and in open areas. This mode is the
most comfortable, controllable, and the least battery
draining mode! Turning left or right requires little energy
because the centre of gravity is of course directly over the
It was quite possible to drive up the ramp, and through my
front doorway, into the hallway in this mode! Such is the
control. This feels so natural, smooth, controllable. And
you are the same height as you girlfriend, barmaid, etc.
This makes for some easy conversation at long last!
allowed to test it in the pub (or any public place since it
was not FDA certified back then - shame!)
pushed and shoved backwards & forwards really hard
- and I do mean hard - it just fights back and maintains
it's station and it's VERY powerful. It does move back and
forth a little if you do this, but its just keeping it's
balance in the same way a person that was suddenly pushed
2040 pixel version!
a bunch of small solid state gyros (actually with the same
"core" as the ones used in Radio Controlled Helicopters -
Made by BAE Systems in the UK) to achieve this. Their
feedback (angular position in pitch) is fed to a bunch of
Pentium processors (And no it does not run Windows!) along
with wheel speed & position data. Some clever software
controls the motors and it balances. In this mode the chair
is excellent and the "height" of the seat is also
adjustable. But the higher it is set, the slower it can
travel. Its all about physics! Don't ask...
pleasure and fun of both balancing as if you are stood up,
along with the ability to communicate properly, AND the fact
that it is more battery friendly in this mode means that I
just have to have one.
CONCLUSION 10 /10 for
Balance mode! I love it. I would suspect that all the chairs
users will spend most of the time like this. This alone
makes the chair worthwhile. Life is so much easier at this
level, full time chair users just forget what it like to be
at a "normal" height.
Stair Climbing Mode
Stair Climbing is something that all powerchair or
manual chair users only occasionally need! Most
of the civilised world is recognising the advantages of wide
level entrances and lifts, because it makes it easy for
EVERYONE to get in. Old women, mothers with those MASSIVE
push chairs, as well as looking "easier" and more inviting!
So they sell more! At least around here, we have accessible
shops, and pubs etc.
And your OWN
house is better either converted, with lifts, ramps etc., as
a long term permanent solution.
what would happen to your routine if it was away for
servicing, or it broke! (Ever see any powerchair that
didn't???) Or if there was a fire. Or if you came in late
and woke up the whole house going upstairs, or the battery
was buggered after a long trip around the pubs and you
couldn't get to bed! You would need a SPARE one, at £21,500
smooth or graceful... Its noisy, it looks and sounds* like
the chair is getting very stressed out! It is
"awkward" and the bit between the wheels, (gear case???)
catches the corner of the steps unless they happen to be
exactly the correct size or less... If I lived somewhere
with a staircase and needed this as a permanent solution
then I would not bother. Think about it! Going up and
down a full flight of stairs 5 times per day would tire you,
the chair, the staircase out fairly rapidly I think. I could
be wrong... Time will tell.
IBOT's stair climbing ability is a "way" of getting
over the inaccessibility of stairs on occasions where there
is no sensible alternative. Such as when getting into a
friends house, or an inaccessible shop / bar or whatever. It
gives you more options! Its not a solution, but it is
another option if you need it! And as a wheelchair user you
NEED as many things in your favour as you can get, life's
For an average
paraplegic or someone with some upper body strength the IBOT
allows you (or a helper if you have no arm strength) to go
up any stair or step that has a handrail. It NEEDS to have
something secure to hold on to. In this mode it does
NOT balance by itself! You do it - you are now in
charge.. You reverse up to a step, change into the STAIR
mode. In this mode the joystick does nothing... Then as you
push backwards on the handrails the pair of wheels rotate or
"step" backwards. The more you push backwards the more it
climbs steps to "get upright" again because its gyros tell
it that its leaning back. If you push forwards so as to
"fall forwards" down stairs it rotates its pair of wheels to
move forwards and so steps down because its gyros sense the
forward lean, and so to rotates its set of wheels forwards.
All this depends on the user taking charge of the position
by pushing and pulling on the staircase handrails. A
similar thing happens when descending, only this must be a
bit scarier! I don't know I didn't try it I have a spiral
CONCLUSION 8/10 for
Stair climbing mode! I don't love it but its there if you
need it! This is probably the main reason people will buy
this chair, but they may use it less than they initially
thought. Its useful for the occasional problem access but I
don't see it as a full time solution.
Four Wheel Drive Mode
In 4 wheel drive mode
the chair sits a little higher than in "normal"
configuration. It has to do because it needs to lift the
castors off the ground out of the way.
well (presumably I didn't try it, but I build 4x4 robots and
loose surfaces, or smooth non grippy surfaces like tiles big
halls, or would be "ok" for pavement use mostly in straight
lines. Obviously with 4 wheels on the ground turning on good
surfaces is a problem. It can also obviously go through
sand, mud etc (but IF I paid $30,000 US Dollars or £22,000
UK Pounds for it I might not want to drive it in muck!!).
It has tons
of torque and little could stop it. If going off road is
your thing then it will please you! And the gyro means the
seat is self levelling! And it will go up and down kerbs and
What it does not
do well in this mode is to turn on concrete! It is (as
all 4wd tank steering devices would be), jerky and makes a
tyre ripping sound as it tries to pull the tyres off the
rims... It looks like it will do if you try too hard!
could not use tank steering in the house because it will rip
up the carpet! For these conditions its best to revert to
balance or normal modes! Should be fun in the snow on
the way to the pub, or for towing cars... In this mode the
seat remains level on ramps and inclines, and can be raised
or lowered. Useful for washing vans, gardening, and steep
ramps etc. Except that the only gardening I do
involves Cement, Sand, Gravel - check out my driveway...
too much green in the world if you ask me! Might be
fun on the beach! $30,000 dollars in salty corrosive
sea water and sand, nice!
If it was mine (and it will be soon I hope) I would
seriously look into either fitting wider wheels, or
"banding" the ones it comes with. I can do this easily I
have a lathe, plasma cutter, and a TIG welder! What
wheels will be wider by 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch about 2 days
after it arrives... This will give more support to tyre to
cope with the lateral forces that the tyre sidewalls suffers
when being pulled sideways! Makes the thing tougher. I
am still wondering why it isn't already like this??? I may
also look into tougher tyres. But then I change everything!
CONCLUSION 8/10 for 4 wheel
drive mode, provided you understand the limitations of this
type of steering. Could SO EASILY be better if it had wheels
and tyres with less sidewall, so they don't get ripped off,
pulled out of line! Still useful at times though in straight
lines or on loos off road non paved surfaces!
Normal "powerchair" mode
Oh dear. I don't like to say
this but this is a real problem. If I couldn't reprogram,
and otherwise modify this chair to get over these fundamental problems for myself,
then I personally wouldn't buy one.
The problem is that in
your home, your friends homes, at the table eating, at your
computer and in the pub, maybe 2/3rds of the total day you
will be in this "normal mode".
problem for me is the "control programming". (effectively the same as a normal
powerchairs "computer settings)
The programming leaves the
chair feeling incredibly slow to respond, and "heavy"
feeling. It's a similar feeling to driving around in 2 feet
of glue with flat tyres. I found it hard to believe, James
tried my own F55s (that is completely
reprogrammed at an engineering level -
drastically!) and he was VERY surprised how zippy and light and
manoeuvrable it was! It is fast but very
HIGHLY controllable and precise.
I remember thinking
that I couldn't cope with it (IBOT) like that, but this IBOT
was still a prototype chair. I presumed that they would do
something about it. James now tells me that they have not!
This is a huge problem for me because I
know what I want and that its easily possible! And they will not give
me it! I could never use it on a daily basis as a
"full time" chair like set up like this.
note This programming issue, and all the "acceleration and
damping" they have "engineered in" in its "normal mode" alone
is enough to make me want to either make drastic changes or NOT buy
The thing is, they will
not let me reprogram the thing.
This means that When I get mine I will need to install an
additional controller piggyback style (no big deal) and Interface it or have a
separate control stick! And mess about with the wiring, and
have a changeover switch so I can gain some control. And this will cost me a Grand on TOP of the
£21,500 - I will do it too - as soon as I can.
Remember that you may not find it this bad. I am
critical since I know how much difference it can really make! My
own F55s chair is totally reprogrammed and has bigger power
controller, better batteries, rewound motors, taller
gearing, bigger wheels and tubeless tyres, seat moved back,
etc etc... Thing is I know what I want and unlike most
people. I know how
and why I want it as well as how to achieve it!
BIG problem - The fact that
there is FAR too much weight on the front castors (C of G
too far forwards by miles!) makes the control problem even
worse! It makes it:
a) more sluggish
to turn on carpets etc making it feel as if parked in glue!
While at the same time having to use huge quantities of
torque to turn - Lots of Rear Drive Chairs are also nose
heavy giving similar problems (mine is not!) but not so
extreme. Basically its a waste of energy and you can "feel"
b) huge amounts
of torque kills tyres and carpets! And it FEELS horrible when
you do it. You can sense the enormous forces and the torque
used and it is tiring mentally. Makes you not want to spin
around to talk to someone for eg.
c) huge amounts
of torque take equally huge AMPS so this indoor use will
murder your batteries... Turning takes more amps than
driving on the flat full power anyway, why make its battery
d) Having a very
forward weight bias means loss of control when the ground is
uneven, say going up a ramp at an angle as you often need to
do, as the front casters stop on the ground and a rear
wheel leaves it! This is pretty bad because the rear wheels
are your directional control. So it suddenly spins around
instead of going where you want to. Its not alone here though
rear drive chairs do this as standard and its dangerous!
Note my F55s does NOT
do this now because I moved the Centre of Gravity back about
4 inches. Now on uneven
ground it stays controllable, and it has 2/3rds of the
weight on the rear wheels I will do something similar to the
IBOT... Maybe bigger castors, or a bit of engineering will
allow me to shift the seat back a few inches? Don't know yet
until I get hold of one and take it apart... Watch this
space... This will of course help the steering, and save on
battery power too.
problem at least for me, is the sitting position. This
adjustable in angle away from your desk or table, but in its
"lowest position" (still a few inches higher than
conventional powerchairs causing a few problems with desks
and dinner tables) it is very "flat". Bolt upright with a
flat seat! Every time I let go with my hands I fall
forwards. I am T4 Paraplegic. Very tiring! Don't know
if I could take that all day sat at my desk... The rear of
the seat (actually all the seat!) needs to be lower really.
James suggested a tapered cushion but I need some cushioning
depth at the base of my spine to prevent sores... I usually
use a Jay2 Gel cushion.
(The one that it comes with is horrible in comparison. I
tried one once - left loads of small marks on my backside!
And it sounded "crunchy" and was not firm enough to transfer
from or too... So it might be better if it came with no
As far as the
seat angle goes I will:
a) fit bigger castors to the front which makes it even
higher, but stops me feeling as if I will fall out! This
will also move the centre of gravity back a touch, and make
it roll easier so turning response may be a little better.
b) Fit a slight tapered wedge so my cushion is tilted back a
few more degrees...
With a bit of
re-engineering of the seat I can possibly move this back a
good few inches too! The result of the combined small
changes will be to make it more comfortable and more
manoeuvrable but unfortunately higher still! And still
in DIRE need of some serious reprogramming.
Normal mode. Too many things wrong here. Almost any
other powerchair is better in this "conventional mode". Put
simply its awful to drive. And I spend all day everyday
doing just that! In case you think its just me please
read an extract from another person that tried this chair at
home who I do not know! This mail arrived as I was
building this site!
I re-read this page AFTER I had typed it all in. It makes the
IBOT sound much worse than it really is! I really
don't mean to knock it!
It is SO GOOD at
everything else - apart from moving around indoors - that it
still makes all other chairs OBSOLETE. And I do
It has one or
two "designed in" problems that could easily be sorted out
and should have been before it got to this stage!
Minor things that needed thinking through. Why didn't they ask
someone like myself, BEFORE they designed, developed,
tested, certified it??? It beats me because one quick look
from 30 feet away told me all this before I even tried it.
It's always the
same. Ask a real user LAST! if they wake up
before the PowerChair users all tell each other about
its "problems" instead of the benefits then it
will be an amazing success even at this £21,500 price. I think if
they don't fix these issues rapidly, (and its not hard!)
people will remember it for its "faults" rather than its
On the other
hand, I don't care what people say, I will be buying one
anyway. Its the first product of a new "line" of mobility
devices. It has some flaws, and future ones will no doubt be
cheaper (remember digital watches???) and better. But I can
see its advantages and achievements NOW! And I want one
I have the technology, I will fix its little problems
myself - I like a challenge anyway. Right I started
saving, and I am in "talks" with my local wheelchair
services as I write this! Watch this space.
17 December 03
Here is a
picture of the PRODUCTION IBOT 3000
You may notice there are a few visible changes. The most
important is that they have done away with the original
EXCELLENT footplate! Arrghhh....
Now it has
weak looking Swing away ones that are similar to the ones I
had to CUT OFF my own original F55s chair. They get in the
way of transferring from chair to bed, chair to van seat etc
You have to move forwards to get you legs and feet far
enough forwards to get past them. When you have muscle spasm
problems at the end of a long day in the chair this is not
what you need.
wider at the front now, meaning that as we all know the
footplate will be banged and battered every time you try to
go through a doorway that you cant "hit" straight on.
Turning in tight spaces like loos etc also becomes harder.
Great. Who exactly thinks of these things! They are
supposed to "swing away" to help nurses lift people into
them I suppose, but for most paraplegics trying to
"transfer" into bed, car, other seats or chairs it cant be
swung! The bed / chair is in the way... These sort of
"improvements make it harder to use and less "nimble" in
tight places. Exactly the sort of places this chair is
designed to allow you to get! I showed this review to James
again, and he says its not wider, or in the way. Well it
certainly looks it in these pictures, so watch this space.
As soon as I see a new one in the flesh I will update these
If it IS just
how it looks to be I
will have to go through all that cutting, building new
PROPER footplate again!
like it had for several years while under development.
one other small problem. Price!
Here is a
price comparison with the $29,000 US dollars it costs to
purchase in the
In UK Pounds at today's currency exchange rates,
it SHOULD cost us £15,683...
as of 2004.01.09 21:15:44 GMT.
United States Dollars
United Kingdom Pounds
USD = 0.540808 GBP
GBP = 1.84909 USD
want to charge UK citizens £21,500 UK Pounds!
Which is as you can see below the same as $39,755 US
as of 2004.01.09 21:21:44 GMT.
United Kingdom Pounds
United States Dollars
GBP = 1.84909 USD
USD = 0.540807 GBP
UK Pounds MORE EXPENSIVE!
Or if your prefer $10,755 US Dollars
live real time exchange rates
According to the UK guys, because it includes a
"two days training" which is really just a few hours, because the FDA, which does not
apply to us in the UK anyway, insist! So who exactly then pays for
the US guys to be trained then? Because the FDA must
require this in the US as well? Its a smoke screen if you ask me!
Almost £5,000.00 to "train" you for a few hours!
Simply do not believe it. Or want it or need it.
Other common US chairs like the PRIDE ones are the same
price here in the UK as in the US... So it is not a taxation
or transportation issue either. So what's the real reason?
Also, this "training"
that I neither want nor need is going to be FORCED on
users... And it's too far for me to travel anyway in a day
safely for medical reasons! (I have to go to their
facility at the other end of the country.)
I have a BIG problem with
this "nanny" attitude to disabled people. I can buy a plane, motorbike race car
etc and because I am not disabled they don't refuse to sell
to me without training!! What if you are buying as a
present for example? Say for a charity to give to someone?
There are some serious legal issues here I suspect. Maybe
basic human rights issues. I think we need to see a little
flexibility here. Training should be "advised" only.
am still waiting for a proper detailed reply to this from
James at Indep. Technology UK; but strangely its
gone very quiet! So that's about it for now - but watch
Some more photos
and its OLD proposed specs are posted below from my old site