This DIY Wearable Assist Goes Beyond Traditional Therapy

Bodo Hoenen and his family had an incredible scare. His daughter, Lorelei, suddenly became ill and quickly went from a happy and healthy girl to one fighting just to breathe and unable to move her own body. The culprit was elevated brain and spinal pressure due to a condition called AFM. This is a rare polio-like condition which is very serious, often fatal. Fortunately, Lorelei is doing much better. But this health crisis resulted in nearly complete paralysis of her left upper arm.

Taking an active role in the health of your child is instinctual with parents. Bodo’s family worked with health professionals to develop therapies to help rehabilitate Lorelei’s arm. But researching the problem showed that success in this area is very rare. So like any good hacker he set out to see if they could go beyond the traditional to build something to increase Lorelei’s odds.

What resulted is a wearable prosthesis which assists elbow movement by detecting the weak signals from her bicep and tricep to control an actuator which moves her arm. Help came in from all over the world during the prototyping process and the project, which was the topic of Bodo Hoenen’s talk at the Hackaday SuperConference, is still ongoing. Check that out below and the join us after the break for more details.

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EMG Tutorial Lets You Listen to Your Muscles

What with wearable tech, haptic feedback, implantable devices, and prosthetic limbs, the boundary between man and machine is getting harder and harder to discern. If you’re going to hack in this space, you’re going to need to know a little about electromyography, or the technique of sensing the electrical signals which make muscles fire. This handy tutorial on using an Arduino to capture EMG signals might be just the thing.

In an article written mainly as a tutorial to other physiatrists, [Dr. George Marzloff] covers some ground that will seem very basic to the seasoned hacker, but there are still valuable tidbits there. His tutorial build centers around a MyoWare Muscle Sensor and an Arduino Uno. The muscle sensor has snap connectors for three foam electrodes of the type used for electrocardiography, and outputs a rectified and integrated waveform that represents the envelope of the electrical signal traveling to a muscle. [Dr. Marzloff]’s simple sketch just reads the analog output of the sensor and lights an LED if it detects a muscle contraction, but the sky’s the limit once you have the basic EMG interface. Prosthetic limbs, wearable devices, diagnostic tools, virtual reality — the possibilities are endless.

We’ve seen a few EMG interfaces before, mainly of the homebrew type like this audio recorder recruited for EMG measurements. And be sure to check out [Bil Herd]’s in-depth discussion of digging EMG signals out of the noise.

Simple ECG Proves You Aren’t Heartless After All

We don’t think of the human body as a piece of electronics, but a surprising amount of our bodies work on electricity. The heart is certainly one of these. When you think about it, it is pretty amazing. A pump the size of your fist that has an expected service life of nearly 100 years.

All that electrical activity is something you can monitor and–if you know what to look for–irregular patterns can tell you if everything is OK in there. [Ohoilett] is a graduate student in the biomedical field and he shares some simple circuits for reading electrocardiogram (ECG) data. You can see a video fo the results, below.

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Hacker Helps His Mother Lift Her Walker When He’s Not There

[typo]’s mother gets around with a walker. It’s a great assistive device until she has to lift the heavy thing up into her car. Noting that this was a little cruel he did as any hacker would and found a way to automate the process.

The build is pretty cool. She had to give up her passenger seat, but it’s a small price to pay for independence. He removed the door paneling on the passenger side. Then he welded on a few mounting points. Next he had to build the device.

The well-built device has a deceptively simple appearance. The frame is made from CNC milled panels and the ever popular aluminum extrusion. It uses a 12V right angle drive and some belting to lift the chair. There’s no abundance of fancy electronics here. A toggle switch changes the direction of the motor. There are some safety endstops and an e-stop.

Now all she has to do is strap the walker to the door. She picks the direction she wants the lift to go and presses a button. After which she walks the short distance to the driver’s seat, and cruises away.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Tongue Vision

Visually impaired people know something the rest of us often overlooks: we actually don’t see with our eyes, but with our brains. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Ray Lynch] is building a tongue vision system, that will help blind people to see through one of the human brain’s auxiliary ports: the taste buds.

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Smart Sutures

Researchers at Tufts University are experimenting with smart thread sutures that could provide electronic feedback to recovering patients. The paper, entitled “A toolkit of thread-based microfluidics, sensors, and electronics for 3D tissue embedding for medical diagnosis”, is fairly academic, but does describe how threads can work as pH sensors, strain gauges, blood sugar monitors, temperature monitors, and more.

Conductive thread is nothing new but usually thought of as part of a smart garment. In this case, the threads close up wounds and are thus directly in the patient’s body. In many cases, the threads talked to an XBee LilyPad or a Bluetooth Low Energy module so that an ordinary cell phone can collect the data.

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My Take on Assistive Tech for the Hackaday Prize

We’re in the last few weeks for entries in the 2016 Hackaday Prize — specifically the challenge is to show off your take on assisstive technology. This is a hugely broad category and I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I’m sure there’s a ton of low-hanging fruit that’s not obvious to everyone. This would be a great time to hit up the comments below and leave your “hey, I always thought someone should make…” ideas. I’m looking forward to reading them and it might just inspire someone to spend the next couple weeks hammering out a prototype to enter.

For me, it’s medication. I knew this can be a challenging problem having gone through a few cycles of prescription medicines in my life. But recently I helped out a family member who was suddenly on many medications taken on eight different times a day — including once, twice, three, and six times per day. This was further compounded by sleep deprivation (having to set alarms at night to take the medicine) and  drowsy/woozy effects from the medicine. I can tell you first hand that this is really tough for anyone to deal with and it’s incredibly easy to make a mistake or not be able to remember if you took a dose.

Pill Organizers Do No More or Less

We’ve seen a number of pill organizers before and that’s what I reached for in this case. However, that organizer only had four slots for each day. I didn’t hack it (other than writing on the doors with a Sharpie for when to take each) but even if there were added buttons or LEDs I’m not convinced this would be a marked improvement.

What you see above is my proposal for the medicine problem. Smartphones have become ubiquitous and the processing power and cameras of even budget phones are mind blowing. I think it is entirely possible to write an app that uses computer vision to recognize pills and sync them with the schedule. This may mean whipping the phone out of your pocket, or designing a pill box that has a phone stand next to it (saying that makes me think of using RPi and a Pi camera). Grab your pills and validate them under the camera.

Useful Augmented Reality

The screen of the phone would use augmented reality to overlay information about the pills it sees — you know, like Pokemon Go but in a way that enriches your life. ‘pills, catch ’em all!’ — new pills can be learned of the fly, delivering the user to a screen to identify the pill and the dosing schedule. Taking the validation picture will record when the medicine was taken, and the natural extension of this systems is a pharmacy’s ability to push your dose schedule to your account when you pick up the prescription. A stretch goal would be keeping an eye out for interactions.

This is all very much like how hospitals do it — they’re scanning bar codes on the packaging and the patient bracelet and recording it. This would be an easier user experience and quite frankly I think companies already in this space (like Snapchat and Niantic) could whip this up in a single-day hackathon no problem.

Is it the perfect system? Maybe not. But there is no perfect system or we’d be using it by now. We need you, the world’s talent pool, to step up and make life a little better. Do it in prototype form by October 3rd and you’ll be eligible for one of twenty $1000 cash prizes and a chance at winning the Hackaday Prize. But even if you don’t build a single thing, one idea could be the spark that lets others change the world for the better. So let’s hear it!