Overlooked Minimalism in Assistive Technology

If your eyes are 20/20, you probably do not spend much time thinking about prescription eyeglasses. It is easy to overlook that sort of thing, and we will not blame you. When we found this creation, it was over two years old, but we had not seen anything quite like it. The essence of the Bear Paw Assistive Eating Aid is a swiveling magnet atop a suction cup base. Simple right? You may already be thinking about how you could build or model that up in a weekend, and it would not be a big deal. The question is, could you make something like this if you had not seen it first?

Over-engineered inventions with lots of flexibility and room for expansion have their allure. When you first learn Arduino, every problem looks like a solution for that inexpensive demo board and one day you find yourself wearing an ATMEGA wristwatch. Honestly, we love those just as much but for an entirely different reason. When all the bells and whistles are gone, when there is nothing left but a robust creation that, “just works,” you have created something beautiful. Judging by the YouTube comments of the video, which can be seen below the break, those folks have no trouble overlooking the charm of this device since the word “beard” appears 95 times and one misspelling for a “bread” count of one. Hackaday readers are a higher caliber and should be able to appreciate its elegance.

The current high-tech solution for self-feeding is a robot arm, not unlike this one which is where our minds went when we heard about an invention about eating without using hands, and we will always be happy to talk about robot arms.

25 thoughts on “Overlooked Minimalism in Assistive Technology

  1. Not to come across as a jerk and take money away from the inventor, but $119.99? I’m sure having something made in such a small quantity for a niche audience is the reason for the high price. Or at least some justifiable reason I am sure, shame it couldn’t be more affordable to those who need it.

    1. Wow, just looked at the price tag as well and yeah that does seem a bit absurd. I’m sure a 3d printed one will be available soon so one can make this themselves at the cost of some suction cups, a bearing, and a magnet.

      1. I’m profoundly hearing impaired and somehow I got on a mailing list of various catalogs for those with impairments of all kinds. The common theme is that accessibility products are absurdly expensive. Maybe you’ve heard of the term Pink Tax, I think there’s a similar thing going on with accessibility items. Paying more to do what other people get to take for granted.

      2. Have you looked into the non return costs for making injection molded stuff? That’s easily 10k down the whole you have to make back somehow. Which is easy when making a new iphone you’ll sell a couple million on release day. But niche product like this, those cost factor heavily into the price per unit.

      1. Like always everything is relative In the event there is a 3D within 50 miles of me, I’m not aware of it. Besides a hacker who looks at this and doesn’t recognize it could be duplicated using simple hands an shop should ha out of readily available materials should surrender their license to hack. ;)

    2. thats what a good healthcare is system is all about. in germany most of this stuff is covered and people who need such “tools” are able to get them…

      on such small markets its not possible to sell for less.

  2. Perhaps a more elegant solution can arise from a little bio hacking. Imagine, if you will, grafting of the feeding tentacles of the polychaete sand mason worm(L. conchilega), seen here at 3:08 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DH9IZ01Qqg.
    Grafting to the inside of the lip near the gum would allow them to be retractable in order to prevent the frightening of small children in public, or more importantly, the wrath of offended creationist hillbilly’s wielding pitchforks and Holy water.
    The semi autonomous nature of these bio-prosthesis would also serve to keep the beard clean and tidy without so much as a thought. Unfortunately this also means that the individual would have to avoid the beach and other sandy environs, as they may unintentionally also attempt to construct a gritty, tube shaped encasement around the person. Although this may serve as a fantastic sun screen, they might easily be mistaken for some poor attempt at a sand castle and gleefully kicked to death by the inevitable, delinquent boys who tend to roam such places unchecked.

    Yes, it’s a rather slow Friday.
    Dibs on classification!
    Homo Cthulhuensis

    1. “Perhaps a more elegant solution can arise from a little bio hacking. Imagine, if you will, grafting of the feeding tentacles of the polychaete sand mason worm(L. conchilega), seen here at 3:08 ”

      Zoidberg.

    1. And that is why it won’t be picked up by a major corporation.
      How could they charge a monthly subscription for something that operates without one?
      B^)

      Oh, is that bearing from a fidget spinner?
      B^)

  3. This sort of gadget in not new, they have been around for years. Here is a profile story from 2013 that shows one in use at 6:10 (worth watching the whole thing, the guy profiled is quite impressive).

    As for the cost of assistive equipment, it’s pretty crazy. Look into the cost of good ultra light weight wheelchair if you want some sticker shock. 7-10,000$ for a titanium frame, another $1200 for wheels all sold through dealers who are often as not non-responsive and difficult to deal with. Replacement tires for the large wheels, sold through a dealer are “medical equipment” and thus sell for 4-8X what they cost at Walmart in the bicycle section for the exact same tires & tubes.

    I get that some of this stuff is limited market, but it still seems to me that this is a market ripe to be shaken up by a more modern business model. Sort of what places like zenni optical did for eyeglasses.

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