A diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is devastating. Outlier cases like [Stephen Hawking] notwithstanding, most ALS patients die within four years or so of their diagnosis, after having endured the progressive loss of muscle control that robs them of their ability to walk, to swallow, and even to speak.
Rather than see a friend’s father locked in by his ALS, [Ricardo Andere de Mello] decided to help out by building a one-finger interface to a [Hawking]-esque voice synthesizer on the cheap. Working mainly with what hardware he had on hand, his system lets his friend’s dad flick a finger to operate off-the-shelf assistive communication software running on a laptop. The sensor is an accelerometer velcroed to a fingertip; when a movement threshold is passed, an Arduino sends the laptop an F12 keypress, which is all that’s needed to operate the software. You can watch it in action in the video after the break.
It is extremely distressing to watch someone succumb to an uncontrollable hand tremor. Simple tasks become frustrating and impossible, and a person previously capable becomes frail and vulnerable. Worse still are the reactions of other people, in whom the nastiest of prejudices can be unleashed. A tremor can be a debilitating physical condition, but it is not one that changes who the person afflicted with it is.
An entry from [Basian Lesi] in this year’s Hackaday Prize aims to tackle hand tremors, and it takes the form of a wearable device that tries to correct the tremors by applying small electrical stimuli in response to the motion it senses from its built-in accelerometer. At its heart is an ATMega328p microcontroller and an MPU6050 accelerometer chip, and the prototype is shown using a piece of stripboard mounted in a 3D-printed box. It’s still in development and testing, but they have posted a video showing impressive results that you can see below the break, claiming an 85% reduction in tremors.
As with all the many, many, many flamethrower projects we’ve featured before, we’ve got to say this is just as bad an idea as they are and that you should not build any of them. That said, [Sufficiently Advanced]’s wrist-mounted, dual-wielding flamethrowers are pretty cool. Fueled by butane and containing enough of the right parts for even a minimally talented prosecutor to make federal bomb-making charges stick, the gauntlets each have an Arduino and accelerometer to analyze your punches. Wimpy punch, no flame — only awesome kung fu moves are rewarded with a puff of butane ignited by an arc lighter. The video below shows a few close calls that should scare off the hairy-knuckled among us; adding a simple metal heat shield might help mitigate potential singeing.
Students at Purdue University’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering created ExoMIND, an Arduino-powered glove that helps a stroke victim recover by tracking the range of motion the patient experiences.
A set of 7 accelerometers in the fingers, wrist, and forearm track the range of movements the patient is experiencing with that hand. An accelerometer on the back of the hand serving as a reference. Meanwhile, an EMG sensor working with a conductive fabric sleeve to measure muscle activity. The user follows a series of instructions dished out by an interactive software program, allowing the system to test out the patient’s range of motion at the beginning of the regime as well as to record whether any improvement was noted at the end. The data is used by a physical therapist to personalize the treatment plan. The interactive program also raises the possibility of patients self-directing their exercises with the ExoMIND telling them how to adjust their motion to get the most out of the experience.
Produced as part of the university’s MIND Biomedical Engineering Club, the ExoMIND prototype was designed by three interdisciplinary teams focusing on electronics, materials, and programming, respectively.
What’s tiny and on track to be worth $22 billion dollars by 2018? MEMS (Micro Electrical Mechanical Systems). That’s a catch-all phrase for microscopic devices that have moving parts. Usually, the component sizes range from 0.1 mm to 0.001 mm, which is tiny, indeed. There are some researchers working with even smaller components, sometimes referenced as NEMS (Nano Electrical Mechanical Systems).
MEMS have a wide range of applications including ink jet printers, accelerometers, gyroscopes, microphones, pressure sensors, displays, and more. Many of the sensors in a typical cell phone would not be possible without MEMS. There are many ways that MEMS devices are built, but just to get a flavor, consider the cantilever (see right), one of the most common MEMS constructions.
The glove uses an accelerometer and a pair of flex sensors to determine the position of the hand as it oscillates. A Particle Photon crunches the raw data to come up with the frequency and amplitude of the tremors and uploads it to the cloud for retrieval and analysis by medical staff.
Hand tremors can vary in frequency and severity depending on the cause. Some are barely perceptible movements, and others are life-disrupting shakes. By analyzing the frequency and amplitude of these tremors, doctors can better understand a patient’s condition.
The best part of this glove is that it also provides immediate relief to the wearer by stabilizing the hand. A rapidly spinning super precision gyroscope counteracts the tremor oscillations as it tries to maintain its position. The last time we saw innovation like this, it came with a set of attachments.
Put a message in a bottle and toss it in the ocean, and if you’re very lucky, years later you might get a response. Drop a floating Arduino-fied buoy into the ocean and if you’ve engineered it well, it may send data back to you for even longer.
At least that’s what [Wayne] has learned since his MDBuoyProject went live with the launching of a DIY drift buoy last year. The BOM for the buoy reads like a page from the Adafruit website: Arduino Trinket, an RTC, GPS module, Iridium satellite modem, sensors, and a solar panel. Everything lives in a clear plastic dry box along with a can of desiccant and a LiPo battery.
The solar panel has a view through the case lid, and the buoy is kept upright by a long PVC boom on the bottom of the case. Two versions have been built and launched so far; alas, the Pacific buoy was lost shortly after it was launched. But the Atlantic buoy picked up the Gulf Stream and has been drifting slowly toward Europe since last summer, sending back telemetry. A future version aims to incorporate an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, presumably to report the signals of AIS transponders on nearby ships as they pass.
We like the attention to detail as well as the low cost of this build. It’s a project that’s well within reach of a STEM program, akin to the many high-altitude DIY balloon projects we’ve featured before.