[Tom Ladyman] is making the case that a robot can take the place of a guide dog. According to his presentation, guide dogs cost about £45,000 (around $70k) to train and their working life is only about six years. On the other hand, he believes that this robot can be put into service for about £1,000 (around $1500). The target group for the robots is blind and visually impaired people. This makes since, because the robot lacks a dog’s ability to assist in other ways (locating and returning items to their companion, etc.). The main need here is independent travel.
He starts with the base of an electric wheelchair — a time-tested and economy-of-scale platform. The robot navigates based on images from four downward facing cameras mounted on the pole seen above. The X on the top of the pole allows for a much wider range of sight. The robot identifies its companion via a tag on their shoe, but it’s got another trick up its sleeve. The cameras feed to a set of four BeagleBoards which work together to process them into a 3D map at about 12 FPS, allowing for obstacle avoidance.
Check out the video after the break for a bit more information. The 3D guidance system is also explained in detail at the link above.
Continue reading “Can a robot be a safe and cost-effective alternative to guide dogs?”
Check it out, a Sip-and-Puff Arduino shield. This is an assistive technology that allows the physically challenged to control things using a plastic air tube. Different combinations of sucking (Sip) or blowing (Puff) differentiate between control commands.
In this case the device is used to control an iPod dock, but [Bob Johnson’s] Kickstarter project seeks to put the Sip-and-Puff functionality out there so that it can bridge the control gap no matter what the need. One example that he mentions in the video after the break is a Morse Code keyboard.
This shield uses a pressure sensor to receive input from the plastic tubing. But we’ve also seen it done using mechanical pressure switches. That technique is what was used in the Sip-and-Puff Kayak build.
Continue reading “Sip-and-Puff Ipod dock highlights assistive technology”
[Justin Lange’s] dad loves playing guitar, but an accident left him with nerve damage that makes it pretty much impossible these days. He just doesn’t have the dexterity needed to form the cords using his left hand. But his son’s hacking skills are helping him get back into it. [Justin] built a button-based add-on that forms the cords for him.
The build has two parts. A frame mounts over the finger board with slots for eighteen solenoids which push the strings down between the frets. These are controlled by the replacement finger board which is mounted below the neck. It has a double-row of buttons that let the player select the desired chord. One button chooses the key, with a second button acting as a modifier to switch to a seventh cord, or minor cord.
The project, which [Justin] has named folkBox, relies on a microcontroller. We spy an Arduino Mega in one of the build photographs but it will be interesting to see if the final project moves to a standalone chip. He’s set a goal for a more robust version of the build some time this summer.
[Luis de Matos] is working on a neat Kinect project called Wi-GO that aims, as many do, to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities. While the Wi-GO project is geared towards disabled persons, it can be quite helpful to the elderly and pregnant women as well.
Wi-GO is a motorized shopping cart with a Kinect sensor mounted on the back. The sensor interfaces with a laptop and functions much as you would as you would expect, scanning the area in front of the cart for objects and people. Once it identifies the individual it is meant to help, the cart diligently follows behind as the person goes about their typical shopping routine. The robot keeps a safe distance to avoid collisions, but remains within reach so that it can be used to carry goods.
If you take a look a the video below, you can see Wi-GO in action. It starts off by showing how difficult it would be for an individual in a wheel chair to use a shopping cart alone, and follows up by showing how much easier things are with Wi-GO in tow.
While the project is only in prototype form at the moment, we suspect that it will only be a matter of time until you see devices like Wi-GO in your local supermarket.
Continue reading “Kinect-driven cart makes shopping a snap”
The world can be a pretty difficult place to navigate when you lack the ability to see it. There are many visually impaired people across the globe, with some figures claiming up to 40 million individuals affected. While walking canes and seeing-eye dogs can be a huge help, [Anirudh] of Multimodal Interactions Group, HP Labs India, and some students at the College of Engineering in Pune, India (COEP) have been hard at work constructing a haptic navigation system for the blind.
[Anirudh Sharma and Dushyant Mehta] debuted their haptic feedback shoe design during an MIT Media Lab Workshop hosted at COEP. In its current form, Google Maps and GPS data is sourced from an Android device, which is fed to an Arduino via Bluetooth. The Arduino then activates one of four LEDs mounted on a shoe insert that are used to indicate which direction the individual should travel in order to safely reach their destination. While the current iteration uses LEDs, they will be swapped out for small vibrating motors in the final build.
We’re always fans of assistive technology hacks, and we think this one is great. The concept works well, as we have seen before, so it’s just a matter of getting this project refined and in the
hands shoes of those who need it.
Stick around for a quick video about the project filmed at the MIT/COEP event.
Continue reading “Haptic GPS sneakers for the visually impaired”
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a debilitating disease that eventually causes the afflicted individual to lose all control of their motor functions, while leaving their mental faculties intact. Those suffering from the illness typically live for only a handful of years before succumbing to the disease. On some occasions however, patients can live for long periods after their original diagnosis, and in those cases assistive technology becomes a key component in their lives.
[Alon Bukai and Ofir Benyamin], students at Ort Hermalin Collage in Israel, have been working hard on creating an EEG-controlled smart house for ALS patients under the guidance of their advisor [Amnon Demri]. The core of their project focuses around controlling everyday household items using brainwaves. They use an Emotiv EPOC EEG headset which monitors the user’s brainwaves when focusing on several large buttons displayed on a computer screen. These buttons are mapped to different functions, ranging from turning lights on and off to changing channels on a cable box. When the user focuses on a particular task, the computer analyzes the headset’s output and relays the command to the proper device.
As of right now, the EEG-controlled home is only a project for their degree program, but we hope that their efforts help spur on further advancements in this field of research.
Continue reading to see a pair of videos demonstrating their EEG-controlled smart house in action.
Continue reading “Brainwave-based assistive technology in the home”