State-of-the-art technology seen at CYBATHLON Wheelchair Series Japan 2019, and more to come in 2020

The CYBATHLON Wheelchair Series Japan 2019 was held in May, welcoming eight teams from Russia, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Japan, racing against each other by showcasing the most innovative wheelchair technologies for the ultimate benefice of society. Team Fortississimo from Keio University Faculty of Science and Technology was among them, attending this competition for the first time, and finished third on the podium. BMC Biomedical Engineering, BMC Mechanical Engineering, Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, BioMedical Engineering OnLine were proudly supporting the event.

Team Fortississimo’s powered wheelchair

Fortississimo, the third winner of the CYBATHLON Wheelchair Series Japan 2019 is a team created by the Faculty of Science and Technology of Keio University, in Japan. The concept of the team literally refers to the team name: Fortississimo stands for “playing louder” in musical notation, and it means for the team that the wheelchair traverses the race powerfully and energetically.

The abbreviation of Fortississimo (fff), also states the following three concepts of the team: Friendly, Fusion, and Future. The team aims to develop a powered wheelchair that bridges lots of barriers between users and the social environment, and harmonizes users, technologies, and the environment, and further exploits robotic and artificial intelligence for enhancing its mobility and comfortability.

The team consists of a pilot, faculty and engineering staffs, and students who have all different backgrounds and expertise but we have been well unified by the team concepts

The team developed this powered wheelchair to be capable of tackling all of the tasks at the race. The wheelchair is composed of four modules of wheel-track units with swinging arm mechanism. This mobility system realizes two distinctive locomotion modes of the wheelchair: the wheel mode shows high maneuverability on smooth flat ground while the track mode enables the wheelchair to generate sufficient traction on the rough terrain or stair climbing tasks.

The wheelchair also mounts two semi-automatic systems that assist the operation of the pilot: a simple feedback method automatically controls the angle of the swinging arm of the wheel-track unit during the stair task. Further, a robotic arm with six degrees of freedom mounted on the wheelchair automatically follows pre-determined motions for grabbing the doorknob and opening/closing the door without any precise guidance from the pilot.

The CYBATHLON Wheelchair Series Japan 2019 meant a lot for the team. The team consists of a pilot, faculty and engineering staffs, and students who have all different backgrounds and expertise but we have been well unified by the team concepts, discussed extensively during the development of the wheelchair, and finally completed all the tasks in the race, demonstrating all the capabilities of the wheelchair. Following the success of the Series, from the middle of May 2019, Fortississimo is now on track towards the CYBATHLON 2020. The team will upgrade the wheelchair that will show better performance and enhanced mobility and comfortability in 2020.

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More information here on the six-disciplines CYBATHLON 2020.

As the key phrase of the CYBATHLON “moving people and technology” implies, the CYBATHLON involves various people: participants having different cultures, backgrounds, and expertise can get together and discuss in several aspects from technical to social issues surrounding today’s wheelchairs and devices for people with disabilities. The pilot of team Fortississimo, Mr. Hiroshi Nozima, remarked “the goal of the CYBATHLON is limitless; we can reach any goals that we can think of.” Team Fortississimo looks forward to participating in the CYBATHLON 2020 and also hopes that this event makes small steps that will lead to a giant leap for future wheelchairs.

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