Toyota reaffirms med tech R&D commitment with motorized wheelchair deal

Toyota's Osamu Nagata

Automotive giant Toyota Motor is teaming up with Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway, to create a next-generation wheelchair for disabled people and the elderly. The move comes after Toyota announced last year that it would sink $1 billion into artificial intelligence and robotics.

Under the terms of the deal, Toyota will license balancing technologies held by Kamen's DEKA Research and Development for medical rehab and other purposes. The companies will continue to have "ongoing discussions" about how Toyota and DEKA can develop mobility assistance technology, Toyota said in a statement.

Ultimately, Toyota will help DEKA launch its iBOT motorized wheelchair. The chair includes two sets of powered wheels that rotate to allow the user to "walk" up and down stairs, and also a "standing" configuration that helps people rise from sitting level to 6 feet in height.

"Our company is very focused on mobility solutions for all people," Osamu Nagata, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Toyota Motor North America, said in a statement. "We realize that it is important to help older adults and people with special needs live well and continue to contribute their talents and experience to the world."

In November, Toyota announced that it would spend $1 billion over the next 5 years on artificial intelligence and robotics R&D. The investment will help establish and staff two locations for a new company, Toyota Research Institute, and carry out operations, the company said at the time.

Toyota also said it would shell out $50 million to establish joint fundamental artificial intelligence research centers at Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"As technology continues to progress, so does our ability to improve products," Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, said in a statement at the time. "At Toyota, we do not pursue innovation simply because we can; we pursue it because we should. It is our responsibility to make life better for our customers, and society as a whole."

- here's the statement

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