The Toyota Mobility Foundation and Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre have teamed up together to create the Mobility Unlimited Challenge with a whopping $4 million prize fund! Unlike many similar competitions over the years, the Mobility Unlimited Challenge was specifically designed with exoskeleton developers in mind.
How does the Mobility Unlimited Challenge work?
Developers have until February 7th to apply for one of ten $50k Discovery Awards and until August 15th to apply for one of five $500k Finalist Awards. One winning team out of the finalists will receive the grand prize of $1M. Note, that it is not necessary to win a Discovery Award to become a finalist.
Focus on mobility:
The Director of Programs for Toyota Mobility Foundation Ryan Klem does well to summarize the focus of the challenge: “… [teams] will compete to make the environment and society more accessible for people with lower-limb paralysis. We know we don’t have solutions yet: this Challenge is about working with the people who can help develop them.”
The Mobility Unlimited Challenge focuses on individuals with complete lower limb paralysis. The challenge operates under the premise that there isn’t an affordable or proliferated technology that presently restores full movement while research and development efforts are scattered. The challenge aims to bring together creative individuals from around the world in order to accelerate innovation and promote collaboration to create solutions that increase personal independence.
Who should apply?
The Mobility Unlimited Challenge is open to any individual with a passion for movement enabling devices. This includes wearable robotics, exoskeletons, exosuits and all of the motion control and environment detection software that govern them. Exoskeleton developers from one man teams to larger independent companies should take note of this opportunity.
Presently, there are a few medical exoskeletons that grant greater mobility for their users. Specifically for people with complete lower body paralysis, these are the Wandercraft (Atlante) and REX. However, could there be a more inexpensive exoskeleton solution just around the corner? As a percentage of all scientists and engineers in the world, only a minute tiny fraction have ever worked on exoskeleton devices. The Mobility Unlimited Challenge asks the question what would happen if more developers from around the world were to become involved and were provided with seed funds to craft their ideas into working prototypes?
Sources & Further Reading:
The Mobility Unlimited Challenge: https://mobilityunlimited.org
The $4 million challenge to transform the world of people with lower-limb paralysis, Press Release, Emma Renowden, Nov 2017, https://mobilityunlimited.org/blog/4-million-challenge-transform-world-people-lower-limb-paralysis