Many users of the iBOT say that “standing” in balance mode is more important to them than the ability to climb stairs.

Many users of the iBOT say that “standing” in balance mode is more important to them than the ability to climb stairs. Photo by Matthew Lomanno Photography

The original iBOT holds the rare distinction of being both a huge failure and a revolutionary industry changer. When inventor Dean Kamen pulled back the curtain on his groundbreaking wheelchair design on national television in 1999, viewers marveled at the chair’s ability to “stand” and balance on two wheels, tackle snow, sand and other tricky terrain — and most notably, to climb and descend stairs. Kamen had set out to create a personal mobility device that would make the world more accessible for wheelchair users, and techno