Toyota has long been an advocate of making unfettered mobility a reality for all, and at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, they showcased the five finalists in their three year “Mobility Unlimited Challenge.” The contest challenged inventors, designers, and engineers from the world over to take on a monumental task: Reinventing the wheelchair. The five finalists delivered results that display the scope and ingenuity of Toyota’s ultimate mobility solutions. What’s more, they’ve given the world a glimpse of mobility inventions that are both practical and attainable, proving once more that Toyota is the clear leader when it comes to developing mobility answers for everyone. In order to learn more about this contest and the five finalists, keep reading – we’ve outlined all the relevant details below.
Toyota’s Mobility Foundation, in partnership with the global innovation foundation Nesta, created the challenge with the sole purpose of tasking participants to pioneer new technology that can address any and all mobility issues experienced by individuals with lower limb paralysis. All devices created for this challenge must meet three important criteria:
All five of the finalists selected not only met these criteria, but exceeded them.
Hailing from Japan, Qolo is a wheeled, mobile exoskeleton that provides extra assistance when it comes to sitting or standing, which ultimately removes the “chair” component of the wheelchair. The brainchild of the University of Tsukuba, this fascinating invention offers hands-free operation and is controlled with the upper body, allowing those that use it to travel while standing upright.
Coming from Italy’s Italdesign is Moby, which proposes a wheelchair share plan that’s accessible via an application, very similar to the many existing bike sharing apps used currently in large urban centers. As Nargess Banks of Forbes explains, Moby would provide electric, wheeled mobility devices with the aim of making the daily commute a lot easier for anyone who relies on wheelchairs.
The UK’s Phoenix Instinct is an extremely lightweight intelligent wheelchair that is self-balancing and is capable of eliminating vibrations that are often painful and troublesome. At all times, the wheelchair’s “Phoenix AI” is using sensors in order to be able to adjust the way the user is moving. In addition, Phoenix Instinct utilizes never before used wheelchair technologies, such as smart power assist, which makes navigating and traversing inclines far easier.
Coming from American-based MYOLYN and IHMC is another mobile exoskeleton. As Steven Ewing of CNET details, the Quix exoskeleton has motors at the major leg joints positions: Hips, knees, and ankles. It provides users with fast and nimble mobility without sacrificing any safety. In terms of technology, it utilizes modular actuation and perception borrowed from that of autonomous vehicles, in addition to algorithms that are used to balance humanoid robots. These technologies ensure that the exoskeleton provides full mobility, independence, and safety measures to its users.
Also American, Evowalk is the concept of Evolution Devices and is quite unique. It is a muscle stimulation technology in the form of a leg sleeve that has sensors which track movement while walking and deliver timed stimulation to certain muscles in order to improve mobility. As an incredible added benefit, Evowalk is also said to rehabilitate these choice muscles with continued usage.
It’s safe to say that Toyota’s efforts to provide seamless mobility for all are truly life-changing; you only have to look over the five finalists for the Mobility Unlimited Challenge for proof. This endeavor is something that we here at Westbury Toyota fully believe in and support. Alleviating the issues that individuals with lower limb paralysis experience on a day-to-day basis is a daunting task, but one that Toyota is working tirelessly toward, and their work is leading us closer to a time when “mobility for all” is a reality and not just a concept.