From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

A Wheelchair that Climbs and a New Set of Eyes

Reaching for that top shelf may soon be a less daunting tasks for wheelchair users if the FDA approves the iBOT 3000 Mobility System.

The wheelchair, capable of going into four-wheel drive, balancing on two wheels and elevating its user, was recommended for approval by FDA advisors on Wednesday.

Using a system of gyroscopes and sensors, the wheelchair balances on two wheels to elevate its user to see eye-to-eye with people who are standing, as well as a system of four same-size back wheels that rotate over one another to climb stairs.

The iBOT 3000, expected to retail for around $29,000, was test driven by 20 wheelchair users for a two week period to allow scientist to evaluate it against other wheelchairs. Participants in the study also took the wheelchair four-wheeling over rough roads, sidewalks, up hills, and over curbs.

While the FDA’s advisors recommended the iBOT 3000’s approval, it was with limitations that include a required doctor’s prescription for the device and an extensive driver’s training course.

At the University of Southern California, a new device that has helped two blind subjects distinguish between light and darkness is also being researched.

While not ready for FDA approval, the device helps the patient “see” by using a wireless receiver hooked to a pair of glasses equipped with a miniature camera. The receiver, planted behind the patient’s ear, sends a signal to an electronic chip attached to the patient’s retina.

Researchers at the Doheny Retina Institute have tried the electronic chips on two blind patients. So far, the patients have only been able to see 16 pixels, but can distinguish changes between dark and light. Researchers are hoping to increase the vision to 1,000 pixels