The five finalists in the three-year Mobility Unlimited Challenge have been unveiled at CES in Las Vegas. The Toyota Mobility Foundation launched the $4m global challenge in 2017 in partnership with Nesta's Challenge Prize Centre, with the aim of improving the lives of millions of people with lower-limb paralysis.
The challenge invited engineers, innovators, and designers from across the world to submit designs for game-changing technologies, incorporating intelligent systems, to improve the mobility and independence of people with lower-limb paralysis.
Central to the challenge is the importance of collaboration with end-users to develop devices which will integrate seamlessly into users’ lives and environments, while being comfortable and easy to use, enabling greater independence and increased participation in daily life.
Each of the five finalists will receive a grant of $500,000 to develop their concept further, with the final winner of the challenge receiving $1 million in Tokyo in 2020.
The five finalists are:
The Evowalk: Evolution Devices (United States) - a smart wearable leg sleeve that helps people with partial lower limb paralysis regain their mobility. The EvoWalk AI system uses sensors to predict the user’s walking motion and stimulates the right muscles at the right time to help them walk better.
Moby: Italdesign (Italy) - an integrated network of wheel-on powered devices, allowing users of manual wheelchairs the convenience and benefits of a powered chair, accessible via an app-based share scheme.
Phoenix Ai Ultralight Wheelchair: Phoenix Instinct (United Kingdom) - an ultra-lightweight, self-balancing, intelligent wheelchair which eliminates painful vibrations.
The Phoenix Ai Ultralight Wheelchair is an ultra-lightweight, self-balancing, intelligent wheelchair which eliminates painful vibrations
Qolo (Quality of Life with Locomotion): Team Qolo, University of Tsukuba (Japan) - a mobile exoskeleton on wheels, allowing users to sit or stand with ease.
The Qolo (Quality of Life with Locomotion): is a mobile exoskeleton on wheels, allowing users to sit or stand with ease
Quix: IHMC & MYOLYN (United States) - a highly mobile, powered exoskeleton offering fast, stable and agile upright mobility.
A total of 80 entries were received from specialist teams in 28 countries globally, the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) led the assessment of the entries, and the finalists were chosen by a panel of expert judges.
Dr. Eric Krotkov, chief science officer at Toyota Research Institute and one of the judges, stated, “There are so many technological opportunities to explore approaches to alleviate challenges stemming from lower-limb paralysis. A competition like the Mobility Unlimited Challenge gets innovators to focus on the same problem to identify something of great common interest that serves society. I am excited by these finalists who have a breadth of technical approaches - wheelchairs, orthotics, braces, exoskeletons. I look forward to seeing how they will take these devices out of their conceptual stage to help our end users.”
In addition to the $500,000 grant, the finalists will attend tailored workshops, receive mentoring opportunities with engineering experts, and collaborate with end users to further the development of their concepts through to 2020.
Ryan Klem, director of programs for Toyota Mobility Foundation commented, “These five finalists have shown real innovation driven by human-centred design. We think that the technology incorporated in these devices could change the lives of a huge number of people around the world, not just for people with lower-limb paralysis, but also those with a wider range of mobility needs. It will be fascinating to follow the teams’ journeys and see how the $500,000 grant will help them develop their ideas to bring to market and get them into users’ hands.”
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