Toyota unveils five visions for the future of mobility

A UK entry is among five finalists in the Mobility Unlimited Challenge, announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, USA. The Toyota Mobility Foundation launched the $4 million global challenge in 2017 in partnership with the Challenge Prize Centre offered by Nesta.

The Challenge invited engineers, innovators and designers to submit ideas for game-changing technologies to improve the mobility and independence of people with lower-limb paralysis. Central to the Challenge is the need to work with end-users to develop devices that will integrate seamlessly into their lives and environments, while being comfortable and easy to use.

Each of the finalists (above with the judges) will receive a grant of $500,000 to develop their concept. They will attend workshops, receive mentoring opportunities with engineering experts, and collaborate with end-users to help develop their concepts.

Mobility Unlimited Challenge finalists:

United Kingdom: Phoenix Ai Ultralight Wheelchair
Designed by Phoenix Instinct, this ultra-lightweight, self-balancing and intelligent wheelchair aims to eliminate painful vibrations. Using smart sensors, the chair configures itself to remain in sync with how the user moves. It features smart functions never seen before in wheelchairs, such as lightweight power assist to make slopes easier to ascend.

United States: Evowalk
Designed by Evolution Devices, this is a non-intrusive sleeve that goes around the user’s leg. It has sensors to track walking motion and stimulate the right muscles at the right time to improve mobility. This personalised, timed muscle stimulation is designed to rehabilitate muscles over time.

Italy: Moby
Designed by Italdesign as the first mobility service created specifically for wheelchair users, it operates like a cycle share scheme in urban hubs. Offering a series on wheel-on electric devices, it will make travelling around cities simpler and easier for people with lightweight manual wheelchairs. The service is designed to be accessible via an app-based share scheme.

Japan: Qolo (Quality of Life with Locomotion)
Designed by Team Qolo at the University of Tsukuba, this is a mobile exoskeleton on wheels which aims to help users sit or stand with ease, effectively removing the ‘chair’ from ‘wheelchair.’ Mobility is controlled using the upper body, allowing hands-free operation. The device aims to enable users to travel around in a standing position, changing both physiological and social aspects of everyday living.

United States: Quix
Designed by IHMC & Myolyn, this is a highly mobile, powered exoskeleton that offers fast, stable and agile upright mobility. It uses modular actuation, perception technology from autonomous vehicles, and control algorithms for balancing humanoid robots to deliver the mobility, safety and independence that current devices cannot provide.

A total of 80 entries were received from 28 countries, with the finalists chosen by a panel of expert judges. The ultimate winner of the Mobility Unlimited Challenge will be announced in Tokyo in 2020 and receive a prize fund of $1 million.

Comments (8)

  1. Hi I have been waiting on the launch of the I- real and want to know how much it costs .i don’t know if can afford it but it looks like the perfect chair to me and having it go to eye level with others is amazing.

    1. Hi Helen,

      Thanks for your comment, and your interest in our mobility solutions. At this time, we don’t have an indication of price. However, more information should be available around the time of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games, of which Toyota is the main sponsor. Thanks.

        1. Hi Ian,

          Thanks for your interest in the Concept-i WALK. This concept was developed by our engineers in Japan. At this time we have no information about a production version, but we expect to hear more about Toyota Motor Corporation’s mobility solutions around the time of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Please keep your eyes peeled for announcements. Thanks.

          1. Hi Matt, thank you for your reply. The reason why I asked about the Concept i-WALK is because we developed and Patented (including UK & USA) a similar vehicle several years ago, and, although both products share basic similarities, our vehicle, the RollerScoot, has already solved the disadvantages that I can see apparent in the i-WALK, for example (though not limited to) those relating to stability, which is an extremely important requirement, especially in a mobility vehicle. Could you please pass on my contact details to the correct person with whom I can discuss this matter further? Regards, Ian Gray 07753 826807 ian.gray@rollerscoot.com

          2. Thanks for the additional information, Ian. The Concept-i WALK is exactly that – a concept. Imagine a concept car without doors, for example. The purpose of this concept may be to preview a new design language. Our engineers know that they would have to fit the vehicle with doors should they want to make the car available to customers. In much the same way, Concept-i WALK is intended to preview Toyota’s future business direction into personal mobility. It’s not specifically aimed at those with limited mobility though – it’s designed to autonomously take users around their city, particularly the places that are inaccessible by car or bike.

            We have a number of other concepts that focus more on users that are restricted by their mobility. You can see the i-BOT and Exo-Wheel here: https://www.mobilityforall.com/global/en/Mobility/

            Unfortunately we are unable to provide contact details for the teams working on these projects, but if you’d like to write to Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan, you can do so to this address:

            1 Toyota-Cho, Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture 471-8571, Japan

  2. Hey so please remember it isn’t just people with paralysis who need and use wheelchairs. There are also people with limited mobility. Like I have chronic pain issues and can barely walk 10-15 metres slowly with crutches, so I rely on a mobility scooter or sometimes a wheelchair for times the scooter isn’t feasible (ie, going in a car somewhere, or to things like theatres where it is difficult to get a scooter into a space). I can’t actually push myself in a wheelchair because it is too painful on my arms and shoulders. It causes severe pain flares which sucks.

    Please think about this when talking about people who need wheelchairs. There are many more different conditions and needs that require wheelchairs either some, most, or all of the time. So rather than saying that these things are for people with paralysis, try more inclusive language like “wheelchair users” or “people with limited or no mobility” – then maybe you can even find solutions for limited mobility and other mobility problems too.

    Oh also it’s difficult when you’re in a wheelchair but can actually stand if only briefly – because if you do move your legs or stand up because you need to, people look at you like you’re a fraud and the worse ones will take photos to shame you online for “faking it” because they assume all people in wheelchairs must be paralysed.

    I love the innovation and would love to find things that could help people like me and everyone who needs help with mobility.

    1. Hi Jenivere,

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, share your experience with us, and give us feedback on this blog post.

      Paralysis is highly prevalent globally and can have dramatic impacts on mobility and independence. The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
      estimates that there are around 5.6 million people in the USA alone living with paralysis of some form, including around 1.4 million with a spinal cord injury. While there are no cross-cutting statistics on paralysis worldwide, the World Health Organisation estimates there are 250,000-500,000 new cases of spinal cord injury globally every year.

      Although mobility is a fundamental part of being independent, globally, society is not fully inclusive to millions of people with paralysis. They face barriers to their mobility, and therefore their independence, through discrimination, inaccessible built environments and inadequate technology.

      Personal mobility devices can help overcome some of these barriers. However, at present they do not fully meet the needs of users due to limitations in functionality and usability. On top of this, the pace of innovation to address this is slow due to disincentives such as small and fragmented markets, regulatory burden, and difficulties in getting new technology paid for by healthcare systems and insurers. This can make the field unattractive to new entrants, and prevent innovative solutions from existing innovators getting to market. We know the field could benefit from technologies and innovators from outside the assistive technology field, as well as from greater support to those in the field. Our ambition is that the Mobility Unlimited Challenge attracts and supports smaller innovators who might otherwise struggle to break into the assistive technology market. This includes start-ups, smaller companies, university departments and spin-outs.

      Whilst the Unlimited Mobility Challenge is encouraging engineers, innovators and designers to submit ideas for game-changing technologies to improve the mobility and independence of people with lower-limb paralysis, that’s not to say we are not thinking of people with other conditions.

      The Toyota Mobility Foundation was set up in 2014, combining our extensive technological and environmental expertise and resources, with the vision and experience of organisations around the world, to improve mobility for all. Over the next few years you will see more from Toyota on this, particularly in the build-up to the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

      Once again, we thank you for getting in touch, and would recommend taking a look at the Toyota Mobility Foundation website: http://toyotamobilityfoundation.org/en/

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