Let’s Make Life A Little Better

Chances are you’ve spent a lot of time trying to think of the next great project to hit your workbench. We’ve all built up a set of tools, honed our skills, and set aside some time to toil away in the workshop. This is all for naught without a really great project idea. The best place to look for this idea is where it can make life a little better.

I’m talking about Assistive Technologies which directly benefit people. Using your time and talent to help make lives better is a noble pursuit and the topic of the 2016 Hackaday Prize challenge that began this morning.

Assistive Technology is a vast topic and there is a ton of low-hanging fruit waiting to be discovered. Included in the Assistive Technology ecosystem are prosthetics, mobility, diagnostics for chronic diseases, devices for the aging or elderly and their caregivers, and much more. You can have a big impact by working on your prototype device, either directly through making lives better and by inspiring others to build on your effort.

Need some proof that this is a big deal? The winners of the 2015 Hackaday Prize developed a 3D printed mechanism that links electric wheelchair control with eye movement trackers called Eyedrivomatic. This was spurred by a friend of theirs with ALS who was sometimes stuck in his room all day if he forgot to schedule a caregiver to take him to the community room. The project bridges the existing technologies already available to many people with ALS, providing greater independence in their lives. The OpenBionics Affordable Prosthetic Hands project developed a bionic hand with a clever whiffletree system to enable simpler finger movement. This engineering effort brings down the cost and complexity of producing a prosthetic hand and helps remove some of the barriers to getting prosthetics to those who need them.

The Is the Stove Off project adds peace of mind and promotes safe independence through an Internet connected indicator to ensure the kitchen stove hasn’t been left on and that it isn’t turned on at peculiar times. Pathfinder Haptic Navigation reimagines the tools available to the blind for navigating their world. It uses wrist-mounted ultrasonic sensors and vibration feedback, allowing the user to feel how close their hands are to objects. Hand Drive is another wheelchair add-on to make wheeling yourself around a bit easier by using a rowing motion that doesn’t depend as much on having a strong hand grip on the chair’s push ring.

Assistive TechnologiesIn most cases, great Assistive Technology is not rocket science. It’s clever recognition of a problem and careful application of a solution for it. Our community of hackers, designers, and engineers can make a big impact on many lives with this, and now is the time to do so.

Enter your Assistive Technology in the Hackaday Prize now and keep chipping away on those prototypes. We will look at the progress all of the entries starting on October 3rd, choosing 20 entries to win $1000 each and continue onto the finals. These finalists are eligible for the top prizes, which include $150,000 and a residency at the Supplyframe Design Lab, $25,000, two $10,000 prizes, and a $5,000 prize.

12 thoughts on “Let’s Make Life A Little Better

    1. Wow, they do some pretty cool stuff! I love seeing projects like that. I love how I can always find awesome assisted living hacks on HAD (especially in the comments section)!

      Another cool one I’ve been following that has surprising applications for assisted living is Knocki (http://www.knocki.com). I can see it being very useful for helping people without fine motor skills interact with their environment. My grandmother’s hands shake too much to push buttons on a smart phone, but I’m hoping I can use a few Knocki’s around her house to improve her quality of life. Just waiting for my order to arrive in the mail :D

        1. It’s still a hack, I always think to myself if I needed a wheelchair/scooter I would add some USB ports in case my phone ran out of battery, You should give it a go it would be really easy.

          1. Actually, I added an Anderson Powerpole connector across one of the batteries so I could get 12V to power an amateur radio. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to add a USB power circuit. I only use my cell phone as a camera, so the need has never really been there for me, but it is a good idea nonetheless.

            Perhaps I will put up a project log about my scooter after all. I’ve made several mods to it, and maybe it could be helpful to someone else in a similar situation. I don’t tend to think of terms like “assistive technology” because I can actually walk, just not very well or very far. I guess I do tend to fall into that category, now that I think about it.

            Thank you [Mike], [Dale], and [Jack] for your encouragement. I’ll probably post something tomorrow on my had.io page.

          2. You’ve got a mobile shack? That’s kinda cool! I imagine bigger batteries are gonna be an addition at some point in the future. And then probably a bigger motor, to carry all the improvements.

          3. The mobile shack only consisted of a single 2M mobile and a mag-mount 1/2-wave antenna so it’s nothing impressive, but it did work, and did get some attention at NEARfest (local hamfest). I don’t leave it on all of the time, but it’s easy enough to re-attach it.

        2. Couldn’t reply to your other comment but it’s cool you have already done stuff, You are lugging those batteries around anyway so why not. I think an electric chair is a great platform for hacks so good luck with it.

  1. What we need is a device that alerts people when they are being annoying ‘warning you stopped in an intersection or the entrance of the supermarket’ ‘warning you are going too slow while merging into traffic’ ‘warning you are parked on a bicycle lane’ ‘warning, people around you are aware you don’t strictly need that trained dog at all, so stop copping an attitude’

    That would assist society.

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