UK company Phoenix Instinct has won a $1m prize for its new intelligent wheelchair in the Toyota Mobility Foundation Unlimited Challenge.
The award, which is the culmination of the three-year Mobility Unlimited Challenge that saw innovators from around the world propose technologies to improve the lives of people with lower-limb paralysis, will be used to bring the Phoenix wheelchair to market.
Andrew Slorance, founder and CEO of Phoenix Instinct, (pictured left with Dr Jakub Rycerz, Phoenix Composites Engineer), said: “Winning the Toyota Mobility Unlimited Challenge is incredible for Phoenix Instinct and for wheelchair users. The wheelchair as we know it has been technologically unchanged for decades.
“The funding we received through the challenge allowed us to prove smart technology makes for an easier to use and safer wheelchair, with the potential for a suite of new features. With the prize money we can now advance this work and bring the Phoenix i wheelchair to the consumer. It’s a very exciting time, with Toyota moving into the mobility sector, we’re going to see significant advances in mobility devices. We’re thrilled to be leading the smart wheelchair revolution.”
The Challenge, launched in 2017 by The Toyota Mobility Foundation in partnership with Nesta Challenges, attracted entries from more than 80 teams from 28 countries and offered a total award fund of $4 million. Engineers and designers from around the world submitted their ideas for groundbreaking devices to enhance the mobility and independence of people with lower-limb paralysis.
Phoenix’s winning entry uses intelligent systems to automatically adjust its centre of gravity, making the wheelchair’s ultra-light carbon fibre frame extremely stable and easy to manoeuvre. It uses front-wheel power-assistance to reduce painful vibrations and minimise strain on the user. The chair’s intelligent powered braking system automatically detects when the user is going downhill and adjusts to help control the descent.