New Advancements For People With Lower Limb Paralysis

Lower Limb Paralysis

The five finalists in the three-year Mobility Unlimited Challenge have been unveiled at CES in Las Vegas. The Toyota Mobility Foundation launched the $4 million 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.
  • 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.

See Notes to Editors for further details about the shortlisted entries, their personal quote and a link through to their images.

Eighty 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, including:

  • Professor Linamara Battistella, Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine doctor at the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil)
  • Winfried Beigel, Director of Research and Development for Otto Bock Mobility Solutions (Germany)
  • Dr. Mary Ellen Buning, President-elect for the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (United States)
  • Dr. Kay Kim, President of NT Robot Co (South Korea)
  • Dr. Eric Krotkov, Chief Science Officer at Toyota Research Institute (United States)
  • Eric LeGrand, disability rights advocate (United States)
  • Sophie Morgan, television presenter and disability advocate (United Kingdom)
  • Ruth Peachment, Occupational Therapy Clinical Specialist at the National Spinal Injuries Centre (United Kingdom)
  • Matthew Reeve, Director of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation (United States)
  • Dr. Yoshiyuki Sankai, President of robotics company Cyberdyne (Japan)
  • Dr. Lloyd Walker, professional rehabilitation engineer at Tech4Life (Australia)

Dr. Eric Krotkov, Chief Science Officer at Toyota Research Institute and one of the judges of the Challenge, 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-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 ten teams seed funding in the form of $50,000 Discovery Award grants during the entry period. Of the ten Discovery Award winners, four went on to be selected as finalists.

What happens over the three years of the Mobility Unlimited Challenge?

  • The Mobility Unlimited Challenge will reach out to people with lower-limb paralysis. The Challenge requires collaboration and co-creation, so that people with lower-limb paralysis can engage with and shape the mobility solutions of the future.
  • This isn’t just about the one winner – the five finalists each get $500,000 to take their ideas even closer to reality, meaning the prize has the potential to launch five concepts into the public realm.
  • The Challenge will be open and transparent. All entrants will keep their Intellectual Property. This is about making solutions happen, with the aim of making new products that support people with lower-limb paralysis available to use.

How the $4 million will be used

The Toyota Mobility Foundation Challenge $4m prize pot will be used as follows:

  • Discovery Awards – 10 awards of $50,000 (combined total: $500,000)

Means-tested grants to support small, early stage innovators to enter the Challenge. Awarded April 2018.

  • Finalist Grants – five awards of $500,000 (combined total: $2,500,000)

Grants given to 5 finalists to spend during the Finalist Stage to develop their prototype device.

  • Winner’s Award – one award of $1m (combined total: $1,000,000)

Grant awarded to the finalist whose prototype device best meets the challenge statement, demonstrating how it meets the judging criteria. To be awarded September 2020.

About Toyota Mobility Foundation

  • The Toyota Mobility Foundation was established  in 2014 to support the development of a more mobile society.
  • The Foundation aims to support strong mobility systems while eliminating disparities in mobility.
  • It utilizes Toyota’s expertise in technology, safety, and the environment, working in partnership with universities, government, non-profit organizations, research institutions and other organizations to address mobility issues around the world.
  • Programs include resolving transportation problems, expanding the utilization of personal mobility, and developing solutions for next generation mobility.
  • Learn more at www.toyotamobilityfoundation.org.

To find out more visit http://challengeprizecentre.org/