Assistive Technology Pioneer Patrick Joyce Has Passed Away

We are once again saddened to report the loss of another great hacker. Patrick Joyce has passed away after a decade-long struggle with ALS/MND. Patrick was the team captain of Eyedriveomatic, the Grand Prize winning hardware from the 2015 Hackaday Prize. The loss of Patrick comes quickly after receiving word on Monday about the death of Patrick’s teammate, Steve Evans.

Despite the challenges Patrick faced in the final years of his life he was a prolific hardware hacker. He and his team won the Hackaday Prize in 2015 for designing a system which allowed electric wheelchairs to be controlled with eye gaze software without altering the chairs themselves (which are often not owned by the user). But he was also a finalist in the Assistive Technologies challenge of the 2016 Hackaday Prize. The Raimi’s Arm project set its goal at creating bionic arms for kids — a noble and worthy challenge for everyone to undertake. Check out Patrick’s profile page and you’ll see he has also built an open source head mouse (an alternative to eye gaze controls) and a headphone robot which allowed him to put on and take off his own headphones.

I find it amazing what he achieved in his work considering the physical limitations placed before him. Patrick had limited use of one hand which he used with a joystick for mouse control. His typing was done using eye gaze. Yet he managed to design and document a number of incredible creations. This is inspiring.

Reflect on this loss to our community, but take comfort in the fact that his work lives on. Cody Barnes, the software developer for the Eyedrivomatic, plans to continue work on the project. If you are interested in helping to make that open source assistive tech available to more people who need it, now is a great time to send a private message to Cody to learn more about getting involved.

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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Hackaday Prize Entry: Open Sip And Puff

A sip-and-puff device is an assistive technology used by people who cannot use their hands. Being a quasi-medical device, you can imagine this technology is extremely expensive, incapable of being modified, and basically a black box that can’t do anything except what it was designed for. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Jason] is building his own sip-and-puff interface that’s cheaper and more capable than the available commercial versions.

Sip-and-puff devices can be mapped to control a wheelchair, click a mouse, or press a key on a keyboard. You can do a lot with USB, so for this open sip-and-puff device, [Jason] is using the ever-popular ATmega32U4 microcontroller.

USB is only one part of the problem, and to measure the sips and puffs of air through a plastic hose, [Jason] is using a pressure sensor from Freescale/NXP. While this is very similar to what would be found in the off-the-shelf version of a sip-and-puff device, it’s rather hard to interface with. The current version of the board is using an instrument amplifier, and the mechanical connection between the pressure sensor and the board is slightly bizarre. [Jason] has a few ideas for a better sensor, and for the rest of the Hackaday Prize he’s going to work on redesigning this device with simplicity in mind.