Exceedingly Important Mobility
When people related to the auto industry talk about “mobility,” typically this has something to do with some ride hailing service or new logistics-based app. But when the Toyota Mobility Foundation talks about mobility, it means something more fundamental for millions of people. The Foundation has funded—to the tune of $4-million—a global challenge for engineers, designers and other innovators to develop systems that will improve the lives of people with lower-limb paralysis. According to the World Health Organization there are at least 250,000 people affected with spinal cord injuries each year. Getting from Point A to Point B for many of these people is a challenge that most people can’t even begin to imagine.
The Foundation announced the five finalists at CES, each of which will get $500,000 grants to further develop their concepts.
The winner will be announced in Tokyo in 2020 (presumably in the context of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games).
The winners are:
Evolution Devices (U.S.) for the Evowalk, a sleeve that goes around the user’s leg and uses sensors to track the walking motion, then stimulating the right muscles at the right time to improve walking.
Italdesign (Italy) for the Moby, a network of wheel-on powered devices that provide manual wheelchair users with powered chair benefits; this is accessible via an app (seemingly a ride-hailing-like approach).
Phoenix Instinct (U.K.) for the Ai Ultralight Wheelchair, which is ultralight, self-balancing, and is “intelligent” such that it eliminates painful vibrations in transit.
Team Qolo of the University of Tsukuba (Japan) for the Qolo (a.k.a., Quality of Life with Locomotion), an exoskeleton on wheels that allows its users to sit or stand with ease.
IHMC & MYOLYN (U.S.) for Quix, a powered exoskeleton that enhances upright mobility for its users.
The Challenge was established in 2017 in partnership with Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre. Eighty entries were received from teams in 28 countries.
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By James Gaffney, Product Engineer, Precision Grinding and Patrick D. Redington, Manager, Precision Grinding Business Unit, Norton Company (Worcester, MA)