37C3: The Tech Behind Life With Quadraplegia

While out swimming in the ocean on vacation, a big wave caught [QuadWorker], pushed him head first into the sand, and left him paralyzed from the neck down. This talk isn’t about injury or recovery, though. It’s about the day-to-day tech that makes him able to continue living, working, and travelling, although in new ways. And it’s a fantastic first-hand insight into how assistive technology works for him.

If you can only move your head, how do you control a computer? Surprisingly well! A white dot on [QuadWorker]’s forehead is tracked by a commodity webcam and some software, while two button bumpers to the left and right of his head let him click with a second gesture. For cell phones, a time-dependent scanner app allows him to zero in successively on the X and Y coordinates of where he’d like to press. And naturally voice recognition software is a lifesaver. In the talk, he live-demos sending a coworker a text message, and it’s almost as fast as I could go. Shared whiteboards allow him to work from home most of the time, and a power wheelchair and adapted car let him get into the office as well.

The lack of day-to-day independence is the hardest for him, and he says that they things he misses most are being able to go to the bathroom, and also to scratch himself when he gets itchy – and these are yet unsolved problems. But other custom home hardware also plays an important part in [QuadWorker]’s setup. For instance, all manner of home automation allows him to control the lights, the heat, and the music in his home. Voice-activated light switches are fantastic when you can’t use your arms.

This is a must-watch talk if you’re interested in assistive tech, because it comes direct from the horse’s mouth – a person who has tried a lot, and knows not only what works and what doesn’t, but also what’s valuable. It’s no surprise that the people whose lives most benefit from assistive tech would also be most interested in it, and have their hacker spirit awakened. We’re reminded a bit of the Eyedrivomatic, which won the 2015 Hackaday Prize and was one of the most outstanding projects both from and for the quadriplegic community.

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2021 Chaos Communication Congress Cancelled

With mass vaccination programmes and careful application of public health measures it almost feels for some of us as though the pandemic is under control. Any thoughts of it being over are illusory though, and if further reminders were needed we have the news that once more this year’s Chaos Communication Congress has been cancelled due to the safety of its attendees and the extra precautions that its organizers would have to undertake.

This event in Leipzig between Christmas and New Year is probably the largest of the European gatherings in our community, and its loss will be a great disappointment. Last year’s cancelled event was replaced by a remote one, we’ll see whether they repeat that feat in 2021. If so, we’ll be there, virtually.

We can only sympathise with our German friends, as while it must be extremely annoying it’s to their credit that they are taking the pandemic seriously. We’re sure that they will be back with the same event in 2022 as the world slowly inches towards normality, and Hackaday will be there to bring you the best of the event.

Somehow we didn’t do a big overview post of the 36C3 in 2019, so if you want to bask in the glory of a Congress, you have to travel back in time all the way to 35C3 in 2018, long before the arrival of COVID-19.

Header image: Yves Sorge, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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Hackaday Links: September 13, 2020

Like pretty much every other big conference, the Chaos Communication Conference is going virtual this year. What was supposed to be 37C3 has been rebranded as rC3, the remote Chaos Experience. It’s understandable, as a 17,000 person live event would have not only been illegal but a bit irresponsible in the current environment. The event appears to be a hybrid of small local events hosted in hackerspaces linked with streamed talks and a program of workshops and “online togetherness.” rC3 is slated to run in the week between Christmas and New Year, and it seems like a great way to wrap up 2020.

Speaking of remote conferences, don’t forget about our own Remoticon. While it won’t be quite the same as everyone getting together in sunny — historically, at least — Pasadena for a weekend of actual togetherness, it’s still going to be a great time. The event runs November 6 to 8; we’ve had a sneak peek at the list of proposed workshops and there’s some really cool stuff. Prepare to be dazzled, and make sure you keep up on the Remoticon announcements — you really don’t want to miss this.

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