Five innovative mobility devices from teams around the world have been chosen as the finalists in Toyota’s £3m three-year mobility challenge.
The finalists in the Mobility Unlimited Challenge, which include a team from the UK, have been unveiled in Las Vegas and each device has received a £390,000 grant to develop their concept, with the final winner due to receive £800,000 in 2020.
The Toyota Mobility Foundation launched the 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.
Developers collaborates with end-users so they could produce devices that intergrate into user’s lives and environments, while being comfortable and easy to use.
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.
● 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.
● Quix: IHMC & MYOLYN (United States) – a highly mobile, powered exoskeleton offering fast, stable and agile upright mobility.
80 entries were received from specialist teams in 28 countries globally. The finalists were chosen by a panel of expert judges including Ottobock’s R&D director.
Charlotte Macken of Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre said: “Current personal mobility devices are often unable to fully meet the needs of users due to limitations affecting functionality and usability.
“Historically, the pace of innovation is slow, due to small and fragmented markets and difficulties in getting new technology funded by health-care systems and insurers.
“This can make the field unattractive to the very people who could help change the world. We hope that challenges like this can inspire innovation and are excited to see how the five finalists use this opportunity to develop their ideas further.”
Dr Eric Krotkov, chief science officer at Toyota Research Institute, said: “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.”
In addition to the 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-centered 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.”
To ensure entries from organizations of all sizes, the challenge also offered 10 teams seed funding during the entry period. Of the ten Discovery Award winners, four went on to be selected as finalists.
Image credit: Designed by Simon Mckeown with Craig McMullen