Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Google Glass For Prosthetics And Blind Athletes

Google Glass, 3D printing, Prosthetics! We have heard so much about these in the recent past, and we will keep hearing about them since things are progressing so well in each of these avenues! Today, we have two different stories related to Google Glass - one, that will help people get cheaper prosthetics, and two, a blind paralympian using Google Glass to show kids his point of view and boost their confidence.

Prosthetics With Google Glass

Researcher scanning lower leg of test subject with google glass

Traditionally, getting prosthetics requires traveling to a clinic where a huge measuring machine with a robotic arm determines the specifications for the needed leg brace or prosthetics. Of course, this process is not inexpensive since the machine itself costs tense of thousands of dollars, and typically, the clinic would like to pass on costs to clients.

researchers looking at 3d printing information for leg brace on a computer
This will soon hopefully change. A research team at University of Delaware is exploring more affordable and convenient ways to do the exact same thing, but without the additional exorbitant costs of getting prosthetics from a traditional clinic.

The team is using Google Glass to capture all the information of the foot and lower leg in videos. These videos are then stitched together to get a 3D model of the cast and then instantly transformed into a template for a 3D printer. This method will first of all, cut down costs for the patients and second of all, make it convenient to go through this process at home without even going to the clinic to get the measurements taken. The patient can print the leg brace at home if they have a 3D printer or send it to a 3D printing lab or studio.

The team will soon be applying for funding to expand into prosthetic manufacturing as well.

A combination of technology like Google Glass and 3D printing helps bring manufacturing to everyday consumers who are not engineers or manufacturers.

Google Glass And A Blind Paralympian

Disability advocates are always looking for different ways to showcase abilities, and not disabilities of disabled people. Google Glass will be used for just that purpose.

Lex Gilette is a blind paralympian who began to lose his sight when he was seven years old. He has won three silver medals and holds the world record for long jump for F11 classified athletes. Being blind, he has to depend on someone to direct him down the runway and make calls for him on the fly.

"No need for sight when you have a vision."

Lex's plan is to wear Google Glass and show his perspective to high school kids so they could see what all it entails, and how a blind paralympian does it. The idea is to show kids that everything is possible, and how being not able bodied does not cause hindrance to your goals. Through Google Glass, Lex aims to make high school kids more confident.

Hit the source links to read more about both the stories.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Parrot Speak To Call: Hands Free Phone Software

Parraot speak to call logo

As we saw in the last post, spinal cord injuries or paralysis can render arms unusable. Anyone with not so good motor skills also have difficulty using their fingers and hands to perform daily operations, thus making them depend on others around them to get things done. One of those things can be getting help to make and receive phone calls - a process that seems fairly simple, but without the use of arms, can be quite a bit of a challenge. It is quite possible that someone may not be around all the time, and waiting for a friend or caregiver to come check in on them may be the only option for quite many people.

To alleviate this problem, Parrot "Speak to Call" provides a very convenient solution. A software that runs on Windows PC along with Dragon Naturally Speaking and Microsoft Speech (comes with Windows), Parrot helps make and receive phone calls by just using speech. The interface is very simple and minimal with just the essential options displayed. The software comes with a few "lists" of its own (Family, Friends, Professionals & Businesses and Work), to which you can add contact information and their phone numbers. Of course, it gives you the ability to add more lists too if the four it comes with are not enough. With just one word commands, Parrot can make making and receiving phone calls a breeze. Check out the quick videos below to see Parrot "Speak to Call" in action.

Set up is very simple (make sure you know how to enable your speech recognition software). The best part is that you don't require a phone line or need to hook it up to your existing phone line. It works on its own and does not depend on any other hardware accessories (except the USB headset you will be using to make calls) which typically complicate set up and use, and make things difficult to fix if they break. When you sign up, they give you a phone number as well.

A very good solution for people who don't have good motor skills or cannot use their arms because of paralysis or other spinal cord injuries. This software can also be used by bedridden people or  those who cannot move a lot because of sickness or old age to call their caregiver to let them know if they need anything.

Signing up requires a one time fee of $99 and a monthly $39 fee for unlimited calling within USA and Canada (month to month; no contract). $10 from each sale also goes to charity!

Go to Parrot's website to learn more about this product.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Neurobridge: Technology That Helps Paralyzed People Move Limbs With Their Thought

Ivan using Neurobridge technology to move his arm with his thought

Spinal cord injuries/ paralysis are fatal because they cut off communication between the brain and limbs - damaged nerves are unable to transfer signals from the brain to limbs, thus rendering them unusable. However, just recently, a team of scientists from Ohio State University and Battelle partnered together to use a breakthrough technology called Neurobridge (created by Battelle) that helps quadriplegics move their limbs with just their thought!

Ivan seen using Neurobridge technologyAs mentioned earlier, nerves are crucial for limb movement, and fatal accidents that cause injuries to the
spine and damage nerves drastically impact limb movement. This is where Neurobridge comes to rescue. A little chip (smaller than a pea) is implanted in the part of the brain that controls arm and hand movements. This chip reads and interprets brain signals, sends them to a computer that recodes and sends them to a sleeve that the patient is wearing, and simulates the proper muscles, thus allowing them to move the desired limb. It takes a total of one tenth of a second from thought to limb movement. So essentially, it totally bypasses the (damaged) nerves responsible for transmitting signals from the brain to the limb and sends them directly to the muscles instead.

Watch this video to see Ivan Burkhart, a 23 year old quadriplegic who was paralyzed after a diving accident move his arm by using Neurobridge.

This is still a clinical study (FDA approved) that is working with five patients. Currently, the study is focussing on arms and hands, but the possibilities in the future are endless. To begin with, brushing their teeth, flossing, using their own hands to eat with a spoon or fork etc. can be a huge boost to a paralyzed person's morale and confidence.

What the scientists have achieved so far is a big step forward, and they are only going to continue to make such advancements in the future. 

Watch the video to learn more about paralysis and how this technology works. Hit the source links for more details.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Soundhawk Smart Listening System: Hearing Aid With Smartness Built In

Soundhawk scoop (earpiece) and other accessories including wireless microphone and charging case

Hearing aids have been traditionally known  for amplifying sound around the person wearing them. OF course, this works very well in all cases, however, one thing the traditional hearing aid lacks is aesthetics - when it comes to design and looks, the hearing aid has not been given much love by manufacturers. This is not really a big deal except that just the size and aesthetically unappealing aspect of it have discouraged a few people from using them. 

soundhawk app showing different environments it can be set toSoundhawk, a company on a mission to transform the listening experience, has introduced a new "hearing aid" that not only looks visually pleasing but comes with a lot of features that the regular hearing aid does not typically deliver. Soundhawk comes with a "Scoop" - the earpiece part that sits snugly in the ear (and doubles as a Bluetooth headset that syncs with your phone and lets you talk and listen to audio). It has a little microphone that amplifies sound around the wearer. If they are in a louder setting (think restaurant), they can use the mic (separate accessory) and place it in the direction the sound is coming from, and it picks it up and beams straight to the ear. Soundhawk is also accompanied by an app that lets you adjust the scoop to the environment you are in - outdoor indoor, dining or driving. Once selected, the wearer moves their finger on a touch interface to adjust the volume for the Scoop. 

The scoop has an eight hour battery life and the charging case extends its life to 24 hours. 


Pre-order for this device starts today at $280 and the price will go up to $300 after launch. On average, a decent hearing aid costs approximately $1,500. Head to the website to learn more and to pre-order! 

Source:  TechcrunchGizmodo
Video source: 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Students Create Reactive Suit That Shows Paraplegic Athletes When They Are Injured

an athlete in a wheelchair wearing the reactive suit demonstrating the stain this suit gets when the athlete is injured

The one thing athletes who have disabilities struggle with is assessing the severity of injuries they get while playing sports. It becomes especially troublesome for people who are paralyzed from waist down and play sports like wheelchair basketball, sit ski, motor racing and several others where they come in contact with other players or objects, resulting in physical trauma or internal injuries. Internal injuries often don't give any visible warning, and if the athlete cannot feel impact or pain because of paralysis, they may not even know that they are injured. This can be dangerous since they can bleed to death or have some other serious life threatening consequences if they don't treat their injury during or right after the game.

To combat this problem, a team of students at Imperial College in London has designed a reactive prototype suit that will enable people paralyzed from the waist down to identify physical impact/injuries immediately and assess how serious those injuries are. The trousers consists of pockets in different areas that have a removable strip of pressure reactive film. Whenever impact occurs to the area where the strip has been placed, it registers impact in the form of a magenta stain. Higher the impact, higher is the color intensity of the stain. This does two things - first of all, it notifies the athlete immediately that they have had an injury, and second, the pattern and color intensity can help experts analyze what type of injury the athlete has. (Different type of injuries have different patterns/bloom on the strip)

At the end of the day, this suit gives peace of mind to the athletes, trainers and support staff.

Photo showing reactive trouser and all the areas that have pockets to hold reactive strip
Pockets located on each bone (click to enlarge)

Photo describes how stains appear wherever contact pressure is applied
Description of how the pressure sensitive film works (click to enlarge)

Watch this video to see what it takes to create the suit, and the testing process it goes through.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

SnapType For Occupational Therapy: For Students Who Have Difficulty With Handwriting

A little compassion, zeal for problem solving, and a sketch on a napkin can do wonders to bring real world solutions for some people! Today's post is written by Amberlynn Gifford, an occupational therapy student, who helped a student diagnosed with dysgraphia keep up with his peers by developing an iPad app for him.
Steven* is a 5th grader that I met during my occupational therapy fieldwork this spring. He is diagnosed with Dysgraphia however his mind is sharp, but his handwriting is so messy that he can't even read his own writing. His OT tried countless ways to help him improve his penmanship but nothing seemed to work. The caring OT went so far as to scan his worksheets into a computer but that consumed too much time during class was quite a hassle. Even worse, Steven was very frustrated and getting left behind in class because he couldn't complete the worksheets with the rest of his peers.
I thought that there had to be a better way to help Steven keep up with the other kids in his class. Then I had an idea, what if Steven could take a picture of his worksheet using an iPad and then type his answers directly on the screen? I searched all over the app store, but there was nothing that did what I wanted. Well, there were a few apps but they were designed for business people and were far too complex for a child to use.
So I sketched out my idea on a napkin and shared it with Steven's OT. She loved the idea. So I put together a detailed mockup of the app and worked with a developer to build it. A few weeks and a few dollars later, I had a working app!
Steven's OT and teacher are thrilled. However, the real joy comes from seeing Steven use the app. It's effortless for him to take a picture of a worksheet and use the iPad keyboard to type in the answers. He's no longer left behind in class and is now more confident than ever! While he continues to work on his penmanship, he's now able to keep up with his peers.
SnapType is an iPad app that anyone can use. It's available on the app store for free and I'm hoping to help as many kids as I can by reaching out to OTs, teachers and parents.
*Name changed for privacy.

Amberlynn Gifford is a 2nd year OT student at Springfield College in Massachusetts. When she's not studying, which is rare, you can find her coaching gymnastics and working on all sorts of creative projects. She will graduate with her masters degree in 2016 and looks forward to working in pediatrics. Connect with Amberlynn at

WHILL: World's Most Advanced Personal Mobility Device Starts A Kickstarter Campaign

WHILL Type A being used by different people

In the recent past, WHILL has received a lot of coverage and recognition for all the right reasons. A personal mobility device that gives an amazing level of flexibility, control, maneuverability as well great comfort and design. This personal mobility device has become so popular recently that its first batch, scheduled for delivery in July, is completely sold out, and the second batch, scheduled for August, is almost 80% preordered. 

This device definitely has some features that have been really well thought out by its designers, especially its arms that can be adjusted for easy sitting, electronic seat sliding forward and backward for easy table access and comfort, and not to mention its ability to maneuver any type of terrain - snow, grass, gravel, or anything else, thanks to four wheel drive, and its ability to be controlled by a phone app!

The team behind WHILL just launched a Kickstarter campaign to promote their device and receive more funding to keep enhancing this already wonderful device. To know more about this personal mobility device, see it in action and to support the campaign, head over to their Kickstarter campaign page!

Read more about the honorable mention the team got at the Red Dot Award 2014 here.

WHILL Kickstarter.
WHILL Website.