Wednesday, December 17, 2014

UNI: Device That Converts Sign Language To Text $1,278 Shy Of Meeting Crowdfunding Target

UNI detecting sign language

Motion Savvy, the company that introduced perhaps the most innovative product of 2014 in the assistive technology realm, UNI, has managed to raise almost all of the funds required to mass produce it and deliver it to 370 million deaf people around the world. The crowdfunding campaign ends in 3 days on the 20th, and the company is still $1,300 short of the set target.

If you think this product will be a great asset for deaf people, and want to show your support in any form, head over to their indiegogo page or share this information with someone who might be interested in this device.

Watch the following video to see how a deaf woman plans to use UNI in the future. Read below for more information on UNI as well.

From Motion Savvy:

The pre-sale campaign for UNI, the world’s most innovative communication device for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, will be ending in three days on December 20th, 2014 and is currently just $2,300 $1,738 shy of hitting the crowdfunding goal.

Time has named MotionSavvy’s first product, UNI, as one of 2014’s best inventions due to the device’s first of its kind technology that utilizes motion gesture recognition to translate sign language to audio and spoken word to text in real time.

Since the launch of UNI’s crowdfunding campaign in October, the product has gained global recognition due to its mission to shed light on the degrading and uncomfortable situations the Deaf community faces when it comes to communicating with the rest of the world. With UNI, the 370 million Deaf people and 3.7 billion others that engage with them every day no longer have to type messages on smartphones, scribble on pieces of paper, or make over-dramatic gestures.

Although the immense positive reaction has proven that there is a high demand for this next level of communication technology, it is apparent from the feedback of the Deaf community that even at the low campaign price of $189, people are unable to afford the product alone. In it’s mission to empower the Deaf community, the MotionSavvy team is inviting the rest of the world to help its cause. With contribution options ranging from $399 to $10,000, people will be able to donate UNIs to individuals, families, schools, or organizations while limited supplies last.

UNI is comprised of three parts: a tablet, a smart case, and a mobile app. The device works without an Internet connection to help the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communicate anywhere at anytime. Here’s what UNI does:
  • Translates sign language into audible speech for hearing individuals using motion gesture recognition technology.
  • Converts spoken word to written text for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals using voice recognition technology.
  • Recognizes different ways of signing so that users can train their device to recognize their styles.
  • Gets smarter with every use through SignBuilder to allow people to crowdsource signs so that UNI can provide the most accurate translations.
“An overwhelming amount of people from the Deaf community have reached out to us about how they need UNI, but we’re finding that the same people are having trouble affording one.” said Ryan Hait-Campbell, CEO and co-founder of MotionSavvy. “We’re so thankful for the support we’ve received so far, but it’s clear that this communication barrier is real and we need help from the rest of the world to give UNI to those in need”

MotionSavvy’s crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo will be ending in three days and is on its way to reach its crowdfunding goal of $40,000 to understand market fit and begin manufacturing. UNI is expected to ship in the Fall of 2015. To learn more or for those who want to help MotionSavvy’s mission, visit:

Monday, December 8, 2014

OtoSense Mobile App: Re-Imagining Alerting Devices For Deaf, Hard Of Hearing

For Joyce Edmiston, 55, who admits she can’t hear her oven timer beeping when she removes her hearing aids, even if she’s in the kitchen, says lack of awareness of these audio alerts and other sounds can be a real problem. 

OtoSense, a sound recognition software company, has developed the first mobile app that identifies and distinguishes the source of incoming audio alerts, including alarms, sirens, timers, bells and other sounds, turning smartphones and tablets into assistive alerting devices for the deaf and hard of hearing. 

Joyce, who runs http://xpressivehandz. is seen here with an award.
Joyce, who runs http://xpressivehandz. is seen here
with an award.
For people like Joyce and Travis Dougherty, 33, who is deaf, OtoSense offers an adaptable, affordable and useful means of being notified of important sounds in their environment.

Wherever you go, it seems, people, young and old, are using smartphones and tablets. The real value of these devices, however, comes from the mobile applications. 

Smartphones have quite literally become the new form of an assistive device - the all-in-one system that is made all that more powerful with the mobile applications available to download. Today, there are apps that let you watch (even in closed captions), text, video chat, bank, shop, read, listen, take photos and movies, check the weather, traffic and even get updated arrival and departure times during busy holiday travel season. 

Travis, who admittedly is an early adopter when it comes to new technology, says that the time has come for alerting devices to evolve and “putting this kind of technology into a smartphone and tablet just makes sense.” 

Since the birth of his daughter, Travis now wears a Pebble smartwatch, which connects to OtoSense, and he will soon connect the app to his Philips Hue Lights when the next update comes out later this month. 

Most people today have their smartphone and/or tablet within arm's reach at all times, it's the portable computer in their pocket and charging it and keeping it running is important. Certainly that’s the case for Noelle Bell, 32, who has a cochlear implant. 

OtoSense works immediately upon download, coming with a built-in library of standard fire and smoke alarm sounds found in the U.S. and Europe. Additionally, OtoSense can be personalized by users, recording and storing the most significant sounds of their environment, notifying users via flash, vibration and third-party notification including SMS text and push notification.
Noelle Bell, founder/CEO of
Buzz Worthy Social Media.
For Noelle, who pairs OtoSense with her Pebble Smartwatch, says she’s taught the app the sounds of her alarm clock, the doorbell, oven timer and dog barking. 

“It lets me know the audio cues to participate in my environment, and has helped me not feel as isolated in trying to figure out all of the different sounds of modern life,” says Noelle. “For me, the sound of the oven beeping is very similar to the sound of my doorbell, and I’ve recorded both sounds and stored them in my personal library on OtoSense. Now I can distinguish the difference between the two, and that is a real benefit.”

OtoSense is available now on the Google Play store. When the iPhone and iPad versions come out later this month, the cost of the app, on either Google Play or the App Store, will be $4.99 with some additional in-app purchases. OtoSense connects to any smartwatch, alerting user via text and vibration of a particular sound they have recorded and want to be aware of. And with the launch of the app on the App Store, users will be able to connect the app to Philips Hue Personal Wireless Lighting, customizing notifications.

According to the World Health Organization, there are 390 million people who suffer from a disabling hearing loss. In the United States, there are 48 million people who report a hearing loss according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. 

Please follow OtoSense on Twitter at, like us on Facebook at, and Instagram at www.instagram/otosense. If you have questions or want to sign up for our email list, please go to or email us

This guest blog post was writting by Kathryn M. Quirk. Kathryn leads marketing activities for OtoSense, bringing more than 15 years of experience developing and managing multi-channel communications programs across an array of business sectors. Kathryn has insatiable thirst for news and information, reading, listening and watching everything with eye for how she can develop and share good stories, with a preference for sharing stories about how technology helps people to live more independent and autonomous lives. Always in the back in her mind, are the words of Maya Angelou, who wrote, "People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel."

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ubi: A Voice Controlled Device That Converts Speech To Actions

photo of ubi on a side table by a couch

There is a device in the market that just might be the ultimate device for anyone with limited mobility and/or vision impairment - a device that just sits around and does pretty much anything you want.

Say  hello to the Ubi!

The Ubi is a hands-free, voice operated device that connects to the wifi and converts commands in natural speech to remarkable actions. It can pick up your voice from up to 8 feet, and can be used to do several things like sending text messages and emails to contacts, listening to music (free music streaming service), looking up information on the internet, controlling your home thermostat, controlling lighting in your house, locking doors, making announcements to family ("come down, kids! Dinner's ready."), setting reminders for yourself, getting important updates and alerts, controlling other internet connected devices...the options are endless! All one has to do is say "OK Ubi.." and say what they desire!

It's an amazing device for someone who may have bad motor skills, limited mobility, or vision impairment - it makes communication extremely easy for them and alleviates their dependence on others.

Be sure to check out their blog too. They post about all the amazing things Ubi can do.

The Ubi is priced at $299 and can be ordered directly from its website.

Watch the following video to see the Ubi in action!


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

World Disability Day: Sustainable Development - The Promise Of Technology

Today is World Disability Day! The purpose of recognizing today as World Disability Day is to "promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities." Just like every year, this year has a theme too, which is "Sustainable Development - The Promise of Technology". 

To put things into perspective, Michael Leavy from Home Healthcare Adaptations has created this wonderful infographic that not only shows all sorts of global disability statistics but also features several global leaders who have achieved great success in their fields even though they have lived with a disability all their lives.

Today, and every day, Assistive Technology Blog strives to encourage everyone to think out of the box when it comes to providing accommodations for disabled people. The ease and comfort that technology brings is amazing, and the 21st century - the age of the internet, makes access to information, collaboration, developing solutions, and spreading awareness so much easier.

Please click to enlarge the infographic below. (open in a new window. You may have to click image again to enlarge)

infographic for world disability day
Click to enlarge

Content of infographic:

"Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions."

1. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure.
2. An activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action.
3. A participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.

A snapshot of global statistics:

1 Billion+ people live with a form of disability.
200 million of these experience difficulty in functioning.
The prevalence of disability is on the rise. This is due to aging populations, a global increase in chronic health conditions.

2/3 of all the years lived with a disability in low and middle income countries are due to chronic diseases.

Issues facing the disabled vs. the non-disabled:

Issue: Employment
Disabled: The rate is lower for men at 53% and women at 20%.
Non-disabled: The rate is higher for men at 65% and women at 30%.

Issue: Powerty
Disabled: In low-income countries they are 50% more likely to experience catastrophic health expenditure.
Non-disabled: The poverty rate is lower by comparison.

Issue: Mortality
Disabled: The rate is 2 to 4 times higher where a disaster occurs.
Non-disabled: Rate is lower by comparison.

Note: This is when people have to pay fees for health care and the amount is so high in relation to their income that it results in "financial catastrophe" for the individual or the household. Such high expenditure can mean that people have to cut down on necessities such as food.

Disabilities in Children:

95 million children (0-14years old) have a disability

The top 10 most prevalent disabilities in children are:

Down Syndrome
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Attention Deficit Disorder
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Cerebral Palsy
Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
Central Auditory Processing Disorder

Inspiring people by profession:

Stephen Hawking, Theoretical Physicist
Disability: Motor Neuron Disease. Almost completely paralyzed.
Achievements: 1) Considered the greatest scientist of the 20th century, 2) Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

Tanni Grey Thompson, Sports Star and Disability Campaigner
Disability: Born with Spina Bifida
Achievements: 1), Paralympic and world championship gold medalist, 2) Holder of 30 world records.

Richard Branson, Entrepreneur and CEO
Disability: Dyslexia (left school at 16 partially due to his learning disability)
Achievements: 1) Self-made billionaire, 2) Founder of the Virgin Group.

Sudha Chandran, Dancer and Actress
Disability: Amputee (her right leg was removed after an accident)
Achievements: World famous dancer in Indian classical dance, 2) Bollywood film and TV actress.

Stevie Wonder, Musician, Singer and Song Writer
Disability: He was born blind
Achievements: 1) 30+ US top 10 hits. Has won 24 grammys, 2) The youngest solo artist to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.


Source: Michael Leavy

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Google Glass: A Solution For People With Low Vision

Thanks to so many technological marvels around us, every question has not one, but many answers. It's amazing to see how people develop some really cool and concrete solutions with things they have access to.

Benjamin Yonattan is wearing Google Glass which substantially restored his vision caused by Retinal Dystrophy
Benjamin Yonattan is a passionate ballet dancer. He started dancing when he was five, and got really serious about it when he was nine. However, at the age of five, he also started losing his vision due to a visual disorder called Retinal Dystrophy which leads to a gradual and progressive loss of vision with age. As a 13 year old now, his vision has deteriorated to the extent that seeing with his eyes is like seeing through a straw. This was a major obstacle for a ballet dancer like him at dance conventions  with hundreds of people around him. He would bump into people or feel squished into a smaller area.

Thanks to serendipity and his mom's iPhone, Benjamin realized that putting the phone up to his eye, he saw a lot more than he did with his own eyes. The iPhone camera (or any smartphone camera) can capture a lot more detail and shrink it down in one little area. 

This is very easy to demonstrate too - if you make a little hole on your hand by curling your index finger (to the size of a straw) and then see through it, you will see very little. If you then place a phone camera in front of your "hand hole" and see through it, you will see a lot more detail on the screen.

This led them to pursue a much robust solution for Benjamin's vision - Google Glass! Since this device is wearable, Benjamin could have his hands free for other activities while having access to a substantial portion of his new vision. The first time he tried Google Glass, he was able to seven people in the room instead of the usual one without Glass. The following diagram shows how his vision improved when he started using Google Glass. It is to be noted that eventually, Benjamin will lose all of his vision.

Diagram showing how Benjamin's vision improved after using Google Glass

Google Glass seems like a pretty handy and fairly affordable solution for someone with low vision who wants more independence in performing daily activities without the need of another person or accessory. If someone is in need of a temporary solution, this definitely can be considered as an option.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

MusicGlove: World’s First FDA Approved Music-Based Hand Rehabilitation Device

When it comes to therapy for stroke patients, we picture mundane, boring exercises that they have to perform for months, and sometimes years. How great would it be to add excitement and fun  to the entire regime so that patients are actually motivated (and even look forward) to continue to exercise and feel better?

MusicGlove does just that. A glove that lets you play a Guitar Hero like game on a tablet or a bigger screen, it is meant for people who have survived strokes or have other neurological and muscular injuries that limit the movement of their hands. A study has shown that patients who use MusicGlove for therapy show significant improvement in their hand movements only after two weeks as compared to people who go through traditional therapy. It requires minimal interaction with the  therapist and the patient can "play" it whenever they want to.

Plus, there's music!

MusicGlove is priced at $1,149 (or $99 for 12 months) for the Home Version (comes with a 10 inch tablet) and $4,199 for the Clinic Version (comes with a 21 inch monitor.

Watch the video to see it in action and read the following press release to know more about MusicGlove - what it does, how it does it, and where to order it from.

Press Release

(Irvine, CA) - October 23, 2014 – Flint Rehabilitation Devices today introduced MusicGlove™ (#musicglove), the world’s first FDA approved, clinically validated hand rehabilitation (#rehabilitation) device that uses music and gaming to make therapy (#therapy) fun and effective for the over six million people with stroke or other neurological or muscular injuries. The device, which helps increase users’ attention span, neuropsychological scores, cognitive functioning, well-being and recovery, empowers them to regain their independence by delivering a motivating therapy regimen that significantly restores hand function in just two weeks (Friedman et al., 2014). MusicGlove is now available for purchase at in both a Home Version from $1,149.00USD (or $99.00USD/month for twelve months) and a Clinic Version from $4,199.00USD.

The device features a sensorized glove that tracks a user’s hand movements. This allows them to play the included therapy-based game by completing specific movements along with scrolling notes displayed on a touch screen console that are timed to the rhythm of upbeat songs (similar to Guitar Hero). These movements, such as ‘pincer grasp’ and ‘key pinch grip,’ are vital to regaining the ability to use the hand after neural damage. MusicGlove motivates a high number of intensive and functional movements that have been proven[1] to lead to clinically significant improvements in hand function.

Picture of home version of MusicGlove that comes with the glove and a 10 inch tablet
MusicGlove is portable, easy-to-setup and easy-to-use so users can practice effective rehabilitation from the comfort of their home or on the go. Initial setup takes less than two minutes and requires no prior knowledge of how to use a computer. MusicGlove comes with everything needed to get started, right out of the box, including a dedicated 10-inch tablet (Home Version) or a 21-inch monitor (Clinic Version), the Glove, custom headphones, all connection cables and a user manual. MusicGlove is FDA approved for purchase without a prescription so users do not have to wait to start playing their way to a better life!

“Engaging with music offers a form of therapy that will keep users motivated to continue their rehabilitation regimen, and facilitates a user’s hand’s ability to recover after a stroke,” said Nizan Friedman, Ph.D., president and co-founder of Flint Rehabilitation Devices, LLC. “As music is naturally highly repetitive, people using MusicGlove typically make over 2,000 movements in a 45 minute session. In rehab, the number of repetitions is one of the most important factors for regaining hand function. Users involved in clinical studies with the device love MusicGlove and are laughing, singing along, and enjoying the experience while seeing measurable results in a short period of time.”

In addition to being fun and effective, MusicGlove changes the way clinics provide hand therapy. The device requires minimum intervention from a therapist while users play the game, so clinics can provide more intensive group therapy without increasing staff. MusicGlove also records accurate quantitative data that allows therapists to set goals for their patients and track functional improvements over time. The low price and ease of use of MusicGlove is a breath of fresh air for clinics that typically do not have access to other smart rehabilitation technology and equipment that can cost over $50,000USD and require advanced training to use.

Results of a randomized controlled trial of MusicGlove with individuals with stroke published in the
A man playing on teh clinical version of MusicGlove
Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation showed that people using MusicGlove had significantly greater improvements in hand function than people doing conventional hand exercises after only two weeks. Users reported regaining the ability to open doorknobs, type on a keyboard, wash dishes, use silverware, bathe and wash themselves, and use the restroom independently after exercising with the device.

“Options for hand therapy are typically limited to using things like play-dough, rubber bands or simply following a handout of exercises,” said Dr. David Reinkensmeyer, professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of California in Irvine. “People lose motivation to do these exercises and do not recover to their full potential. With MusicGlove, they can have fun with their therapy while receiving quantitative feedback on their performance. This makes it easy for them to stick to their regimen, and when users get better in the game, they are actually improving their hand function.”

Another key unique benefit of MusicGlove is the continuity it provides between users’ home and clinic regimens. People with hand impairment typically only have access to therapy in outpatient clinics for one to two days per week. The rest of the time, they are left without any motivating tools to help them recover. With MusicGlove, users can continue their therapy on their own with ease. When users return to the clinic, therapists can see exactly how much exercise they did at home and how much they improved over the course of the week.

About Flint Rehabilitation Devices, LLC

Founded in 2011, Flint Rehabilitation Devices, LLC is located in Irvine, CA. Its mission is to develop effective, engaging rehabilitation devices based on the latest clinical research and engineering innovations in order to provide the spark people need to break through plateaus in their recovery and reach their maximum potential. Its flagship product, MusicGlove, which is backed by the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Disability and Research Rehabilitation, was developed by a team of world renowned researchers and physicians that specialize in rehabilitation at the University of California in Irvine (UCI), and is now used in top rehabilitation programs in the country including the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (#1 in the country), Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center (#1 in California), University of California in Los Angeles, and UCI. For more information, please visit
[1] Friedman, N., Chan, V., Reinkensmeyer, A. N., Beroukhim, A., Zambrano, G. J., Bachman, M., & Reinkensmeyer, D. J. (2014). Retraining and assessing hand movement after stroke using the MusicGlove: comparison with conventional hand therapy and isometric grip training. Journal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation, 11(1), 76.

Monday, October 27, 2014

3D Printing And Prosthetics

This is the first of (hopefully) many to come in the future. This is a very basic primer on 3D printing and how it can be used effectively to print efficient and very cheap prosthetic limbs. I have created a "Sway" too that I will be updating on a regular basis to keep the content up to date and meaningful. It is also easier to share the "Sway" with family and friends. It can be accessed here:

If you prefer the regular blog format then read below.

What is 3D Printing?

In simplest of words, 3D printing involves printing actual objects. It is not manufacturing or creating, simply printing! And why is it called 3D printing? Because it involves a printer that connects to a computer.

The basic idea is that if you have designed a product in a CAD software, it can be printed out layer by layer using a 3D printer. There are several types of 3D printers available that use different technologies to print.

Some printers use powdered material (Selective Laser Sintering or SLS) while others use plastic or metal wire (Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM) or resin (Stereolithography).

Additional Reading: What is 3d Printing

Why is it such a big deal?

The basic principle of a 3D printer dictates that you can print objects with it. That's cool and all, but what is it about 3D printing that is causing such a huge commotion? See, what's amazing about 3D printing is that it cannot just print objects, it can print useful objects. VERY useful objects. So useful that those objects can save or extend people's lives.

Let's start with the basics.

We are not using ink - we are using glass, plastic, powder among other things to 3D print, which essentially means that we can print just about anything with a 3D printer. It's not easy to fathom the extent to which 3D printing can go. It is both mind blowing and baffling to know that 3D printing can print anything from a cute little toy to a life saving organ. Just recently, a major breakthrough in the 3D printing space allowed 3D printed tissue to survive on its own. Such breakthroughs have led to important organs like kidneys to be developed for transplants.

3D printing is fascinating.

3D Printing For Prosthetics

It's a no brainer that since we can print anything with a 3D printer, we can print prosthetics as well. There are more than 10 million amputees around the world [1]. Arranging a (traditional) prosthetic limb for them is always a challenge because of the cost involved which can range anywhere from $20,000 - $50,000. These exorbitant costs can deter anyone from pursuing an important accessory that will enhance their lives, more so because insurance companies do not cover the costs of prosthetic limbs especially for little children because they outgrow their prosthetic limb very quickly.

However, not surprisingly, 3D printers have come to the rescue of people who need artificial limbs. It is unbelievable how easily a limb can be printed by a 3D printer - layer by layer, that functions just like a traditional prosthetic limb. Believe it or not, a 3D printed prosthetic hand can cost anywhere from $5 to $100. That's it! And because of that, people are more willing to experiment with the design to come up with more efficient limbs. Outgrowing a prosthetic limb is not a worry anymore either.


There are several voluntary organizations out there that are making 3D printed prosthetic hands available for amputees at a very affordable price.

One of these organizations is Open Hand Project that makes prosthetic hands available for less than $1,000. It is an open source project which means that all the information required to create a
prosthetic hand using a 3D printer is readily available to the entire community on their website. Anyone who adds improvements to the project are shared with the entire community.

Another volunteer driven group is called E-nabling The Future which consists of engineers, students, teachers, occupational therapists, designers amongst others. This group helps print 3D prosthetics for those who need them, and the cost to print a hand may run anywhere between
$20 and $50.

Endless Opportunities

What you have read here is just the beginning. There are tons of innovations being made in the world of assistive technology using 3D printers on a regular basis! 3D printers are getting cheaper by the day, which means that more and more hobbyists and designers are getting their hands on them, fueling creativity and collaboration and taking 3D printing to a whole new level!

Last, But Not The Least

3D printers. If you or someone you know is interested in knowing more or using 3D printers, this link should be a good resource to get you started.

3d printers comparison


Cover Image [1]: Parade's Community Table
3D Printers Comparison Chart: Tom's Guide

Additional Sources:
[1]: Forbes

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

UNI: A Device That Converts Sign Language To Speech

student using UNI with teacher

Remember MotionSavvy, the company that was working on creating a device that would convert sign language into speech so the deaf and hard of hearing could use it on a daily basis even with people who don't know sign language? Well, the same company is launching a crowdfunding campaign to make this product a reality and bring it to the masses!

The device, UNI, will retail for $799 but early bird prices start at $499.  After hearing feedback from the deaf community, UNI's early bird price will be $198 (pay $99 now and $99 when UNI is shipped), and it will retail for $499 instead of $799.

Read the press release below to get a detailed understanding of what all UNI can do. It is expected to ship in Fall 2015.

Check out their Indiegogo page  and website for more details and to support them!

MotionSavvy Announces Crowdfunding Campaign to Build UNI, the First Device That Allows Both Deaf and Hearing Communities to Naturally Communicate with Each Other

First of its kind device translates sign language into audio and spoken word to text, finally empowering the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to lead full lives and boundless careers.

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- October 21, 2014 -- Can you imagine being held back in your career or having a hard time meeting new people because you were unable to talk to those around you? For the Deaf community this is an everyday struggle. That's why today, MotionSavvy is officially launching its pre-order campaign for UNI, the world’s first mobile device that enables the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to communicate with the world around them.

To see how UNI can impact lives, watch a video of how it works here:

For the 370 million Deaf people in the world and the roughly 3.7 billion others that engage with them, communication is often frustrating or awkward. And with interpreter services being a luxury that many cannot afford, most Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals are forced to rely on clunky and degrading forms of communication--like typing out messages on their smartphones or frantically jotting down thoughts with a pen and paper--to express their needs.

Enter UNI, the first technology of its kind that utilizes motion gesture recognition to translate sign

image shows how UNI in action
language to audio and spoken word to text in real time. Built by a team of Deaf and Hard of Hearing engineers from Rochester Institute of Technology with design and programming experiences from Nintendo, Microsoft, Railcomm, Inc., and ZVRS. UNI aims to empower the Deaf community with the choice to live the lifestyles they desire at home, in public, at work or in school.

UNI is comprised of three parts: a tablet, a smart case, and a mobile app. The device works without an Internet connection to help the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communicate anywhere at anytime.

Here’s what UNI does:
  • Translates sign language into audible speech: Powered by motion gesture recognition technologies, UNI translates signs into audible speech for hearing individuals.
  • Converts spoken word to written text: Using voice recognition technology, UNI identifies audible speech and converts it to text for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals.
  • Recognizes your signing: Every person signs a little differently, even if they sign in the same language. The smart recognition feature allows users to train their device to recognize different gestures by adding new signs and words to the MotionSavvy Sign Language Database.

Gets smarter with every use through crowdsigning: Did you know sign language is not universal, and even American Sign Language consists of different dialects and accents? Just like Wikipedia crowdsources information, MotionSavvy adds new terms and gestures to its Sign Language Database as more people use it. This means UNI will get smarter over time to provide the most accurate translations.

“Many Deaf people live in isolation, and isolation is a dangerous mindset,” said Ryan Hait-Campbell, CEO and co-founder of MotionSavvy. “We want to open up the rest of the world to the Deaf community and give them the opportunity to go about their lives with confidence and accomplish dreams that were once thought to be impossible. UNI could make the difference for a Deaf person getting paid minimum wage as a retail backroom stocker to earning a six-figure salary as an investment banker.”

MotionSavvy is partnering with Indiegogo to launch its pre-order campaign today, with a goal to raise $100,000 to understand market fit and begin manufacturing. UNI will retail for $799, but early bird pricing starts at $499 while limited supplies last, and is expected to ship in the Fall of 2015. To learn more and pre-order a UNI, visit:

About MotionSavvy

MotionSavvy is a company of Deaf and Hard of Hearing young professionals and students who are on a mission to help expand the range of communication for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing people around the world using advanced motion sensor technology. The company’s first product is UNI, the mobile communication device that translates sign language to audio and spoken language to text in real-time. Founded in 2013, MotionSavvy is headquartered in Alameda, CA.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Prosthetic Hand Lets Amputees Feel Texture Of Objects

an amputee wearing a prosthetic hand and gripping a cherry tomato
Over the years, prosthetic hands are becoming more and more viable for people who lose their hands in accidents or were perhaps not born with one. Prosthetic limbs are great in that they help the users get back to daily routine operations. The one thing that most prosthetic limbs don't do however, is allow the wearer to feel the texture of objects that they grip. Scientists at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH have taken the prosthetic hand one step ahead by adding sensation and "feel" to the hand they have created. 

"Touch perception on the fingers and hand is essential for fine motor control, contributes to our sense of self, allows for effective communication, and aids in our fundamental perception of the world." [1]

Turns out, sensation is not felt or generated by a hand but by a certain part of the brain. When a person lose their hand, they inherently lose the input that switches on those parts of the brain responsible for sensation. By sending electric signals by a computer into nerves in the user's arm and eventually to a specific part of the brain, sensation or touch can be reactivated.

Igor Spetic, a man who lost his right hand in an industrial accident in 2005, says that he can see his arm hair raise when a cotton is brushed against his prosthetic hand.

another amputee wearing the prosthetic hand squeezing toothpaste on a toothbrushSince the amputees can now feel the texture of the object they are handling, they also know exactly how much pressure to apply to form their grip without damaging the object. With other prosthetic hands, gripping tomatoes and grapes meant creating juice instantly!

Currently, this arm can be tested and improved only in a lab setting, however, the team plans to create an implantable hand in the next five years so it could be tested at home. Detailed description of how this hand works was published in this article.

Watch the video to learn about all the research that has been going on to make this hand a success.

Source: CWRU via Gizmodo, Science Translational Medicine [1] 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

VEST: A Vest That Helps Deaf People Hear

image showing front and back of vest
We know very well that a large majority of deaf people use hearing aids or cochlear implants to amplify and hear the sounds around them. A scientist is working on another form of aid that will help deaf people convert sound to electrical signals which are sent to the brain directly - no need for an aid or implant!
This new aid, called VEST (Versatile Extra-Sensory Transducer) is an actual vest that a deaf person will wear under their shirt. Their (Android) smart phone will capture the sounds around them and send them to vibration motors on the vest real time, which will be converted to touch in the form of vibrations. These vibrations, or electric signals, are then sent to the brain directly where they are interpreted into information. With this vest, deaf people will be able to do several things that are typically either not possible for them or very difficult, like listening to traffic sounds in their surroundings, music, etc.
image showing description of how VEST works.
This device would cost approximately $2,000 - an eighth of what a cochlear implant surgery costs, and since this is something one just wears (and is hidden under their clothing), there is no need for a medical surgery.
The inventor of VEST, David Eagleman, also plans to send weather, stock market information, and tweets directly to this vest in the future. As an example, if the wearer of VEST were in a room where people were tweeting with a certain hashtag, they would get all those tweets directly into their brain!

Data around them will get directly streamed to their brain!
This vest weighs around 10 lbs but future enhancements include shedding that extra weight off.
Eagleman will be posting regular VEST updates on his website here.
Watch this Kickstarter video (that was successfully funded just yesterday to learn more about VEST and what all it can do.

Watch this three minute video to understand the bigger theoretical concepts behind VEST.

And here's a very amazing presentation by David Eagleman at Being Human last year. It's 22 minutes long but totally worth watching!

Source: Medical Daily, Kickstarter, Eagleman Laboratory