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Ultra-lightweight intelligent wheelchair receives $1M

UK Phoenix Instinct winner of Mobility Unlimited Challenge
17/12/2020
The winner’s announcement is a culmination of the three-year Mobility Unlimited Challenge which saw innovators from around the world submit game-changing technologies to improve the lives of people with lower limb paralysis. Finalist devices ranged from a hybrid exoskeleton on wheels to a fleet of semi-autonomous electric devices to assist manual wheelchair users when travelling.

An intelligent ultra-light carbon fibre wheelchair

Designed by Phoenix Instinct, the Phoenix i uses intelligent systems to automatically adjust its centre of gravity, making the ultra-lightweight carbon fibre frame extremely stable and easier to manoeuvre.

It uses front-wheel power-assist to reduce painful vibrations and minimize strain on the user.

The chair’s intelligent powered braking system automatically detects when the user is going downhill and adjusts to manage the user’s descent.

“Winning the Toyota Mobility Unlimited Challenge is incredible for Phoenix Instinct and for wheelchair users. The wheelchair as we know it has been technologically unchanged for decades. The funding we received through the Challenge allowed us to prove smart technology makes for an easier to use and safer wheelchair with the potential for a suite of new features. With the prize money we can now advance this work and bring the Phoenix I wheelchair to the consumer. It’s a very exciting time with Toyota moving into the mobility sector, we're going to see significant advances in mobility devices. At Phoenix Instinct we're thrilled to be leading the smart wheelchair revolution.”

Andrew Slorance, Phoenix Instinct

The four other finalists

The Evowalk: Evolution Devices (US) - a smart wearable simulator that goes right below the knee and uses artificial intelligence to support your muscles at the right time.

Qolo (Quality of Life with Locomotion), University of Tsukuba (Japan) - a standing mobility device that integrates exoskeleton and wheelchair functions.

Quix: IHMC & MYOLYN (US) - a highly mobile, powered exoskeleton offering fast, stable, and agile upright mobility.

Wheem-i: Italdesign (Italy) - a wheel-on semi-autonomous electric device that provides ride sharing for wheelchair users. It’s primarily designed for micro mobility and is usable on a variety of surfaces.

“Mobility means freedom. It means liberation from being limited in life. As we believe at Toyota, when we are free to move, we are able to fully participate in society, and I’m excited for each of these devices supported by the Mobility Unlimited Challenge, particularly the winning device, because of how it will allow so many people to better do what they want to do.”

Sir Philip Craven, member of the Board of Directors at Toyota Motor Corporation and former President of the International Paralympic Committee

Challenge supports UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

At its core, the Challenge was developed to highlight the importance of collaboration with end-users and create inventions with the disability community in mind. It supports the UN’s Sustainable Development goals, specifically Goal #10 of reducing inequalities in supporting devices that help people with paralysis better access society for economic, social, educational and other opportunities. Key specifications for choosing the winning invention included devices that will integrate seamlessly into people’s lives and environments, enabling greater independence and increased participation in daily life. 
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