Date Clock Requires (Almost) No Interaction

A lot of commercial offerings of technology aimed at helping the elderly seem to do a good job on the surface, but anything other than superficial interaction with them tends to be next to impossible for its intended users. Complicated user interfaces and poor design consideration reign in this space. [7402] noticed this and was able to design a better solution for an elderly relative’s digital day planner after a commercial offering he tried couldn’t automatically adjust for Daylight Savings.

Of course, the clock/day planner has a lot going on under the surface that the elderly relative may not be able to use, but the solution to all of that was to make it update over the network. This task [7402] plans to do remotely since the relative does not live anywhere nearby. It is based on a Raspberry Pi connected to a Uniroi screen which automatically dims but can be switched off by means of a large button in the front. The UI shows the date, time, and a number of messages or reminders in large font in order to improve [7402]’s relative’s life.

This is a great idea for anyone with their own elderly relative which might need something like this but won’t want to interact with the technology other than the cursory glance, but the project is also a great illustration of proper design for the intended users. Commercial offerings often had hidden buttons and complicated menus, but this has none of that, much like this well-designed walker for an elderly Swede.

Smartphone Case Doubles As Chording Keyboard, With Gesture Inputs

Smartphones and other modern computing devices are wonderful things, but for those with disabilities interacting with them isn’t always easy. In trying to improve accessibility, [Dougie Mann] created TypeCase, a combination gestural input device and chording keyboard that exists in a kind of symbiotic relationship with a user’s smartphone.

With TypeCase, a user can control a computer (or the smartphone itself) with gestures, emulate a mouse, or use the device as a one-handed chording keyboard for text input. The latter provides an alternative to voice input, which can be awkward in public areas.

The buttons and motion sensors allow for one-handed button and gestural input while holding the phone, and the Bluetooth connectivity means that the device acts and works just like a wireless mouse or keyboard. The electronics consist mainly of an Adafruit Feather 32u4 Bluefruit LE, and [Dougie] used 3D Hub’s on-demand printing service to create the enclosures once the design work was complete. Since TypeCase doubles as a protective smartphone case, users have no need to carry or manage a separate device.

TypeCase’s use cases are probably best expressed by [Dougie]’s demo video, embedded below. Chording keyboards have a higher learning curve, but they can be very compact. One-handed text input does remind us somewhat of a very different approach that had the user make gestures in patterns reminiscent of Palm’s old Graffiti system; perhaps easier to learn but not nearly as discreet.

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Braille Keyboard Finds Its Voice

If you have a serious visual impairment, using a computer isn’t easy. [Dhiraj] has a project that allows people fluent in Braille to use that language for input. In addition to having a set position for fingers, the device also reads the key pressed as you type. With some third party software it is possible to even create Word documents, according to [Dhiraj].

You can see the finished product in the video below. This is one of those projects where the idea is the hardest part. Reading six buttons and converting them into characters is fairly simple. Each Braille character uses a cell of six bumps and the buttons mimic those bumps (although laid out for your fingers).

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Ikea Furniture Hacks Make Accessibility More Accessible

The ThisAbles project is a series of 3D-printed IKEA furniture hacks making life easier for those without full use of their bodies. Since IKEA furniture is affordable and available across most of the planet, it’s the ideal target for a project that aims to make 3D-printed improvements accessible to everyone.

These hacks fit all meanings of the word “accessible”: Available worldwide, affordable, and helping people overcome physical barriers of everyday living. ThisAbles has support of multiple organizations including IKEA Israel. In their short introductory video (embedded below the break) they explained their process to find ways to make big impacts with simple 3D-printed modifications. From bumpers protecting furniture against wheelchair damage, to handles that allow drawers to be opened without fine fingertip control. Each of these designs also fit the well-known IKEA aesthetic, including their IKEA style illustrated manuals.

The site launched with thirteen downloadable solutions, but they have ambitions for more with user feedback. There’s a form where people can submit problems they would like to see solved, or alternatively, people can submit solutions they’ve already created and wish to share with the world. Making small changes to commodity IKEA furniture, these 3D printed accessories will have far more impact on people’s lives than the average figurine trinket on Thingiverse. It’s just the latest way we can apply hacker ingenuity to help others to do everything from simple daily tasks to video gaming.

[via Washington Post]

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Dad’s Custom Xbox Adaptive Controller Build For His Child

When Microsoft announced the Xbox adaptive controller earlier this year, many were pleasantly surprised at how adaptive it truly was. The controller features 3.5mm jacks for easily connecting any external input device and sports an impressive build quality given its price tag, but the most impressive part was the fact that the design was so open in nature. Rather than seeking to create a specific design solution tailored to a subset of users the adaptive controller acts more as a hub for the community’s designs. One of those brilliant designs comes from [Colton] who posted a five-part series on his custom controller build for his daughter.

Xbox One Adaptive Controller Build Push Button Switches

His daughter, Ellie, has Cornelia de Lange syndrome which prevents her from being able to use more conventional pressure sensitive input devices. So [Colton] devised a way for buttons to be pressed using an alternate range of motion. By attaching foam massage inserts to standard paint rollers, the buttons could be triggered by allowing the peaks and valleys of the foam to roll over the top of each button. He could achieve even better accuracy by attaching braided ribbon over the buttons in order to prevent binding.

After finding that setup to be successful, [Colton] went about designing a frame. He arrived at using PVC pipe and utilizing tees as anchor points for the rollers. A couple of steel hose clamps are enough to hold each of the foam rollers in place, and the contact distance can be dialed in with buttons housed in threaded PVC adapters (shown right). After the addition of a little colored wrap here and there the build has a decidedly cheery exterior.

However, the build was not complete without a custom piece of software to match. [Colton] reached out for help from his nephew to program a “RGB Etch-a-Sketch” they called Sundoodler. The game runs on a small form factor PC hooked up to a projector so Ellie can play lying down. [Colton] has some future plans for his daughter’s custom Xbox adaptive controller build, but for now you can see the results in the video below.

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Introducing The Mobility Unlimited Challenge

If you take a walk across the centre of your city, you will find it to be a straightforward experience with few inconveniences. The occasional hold-up at a pedestrian crossing perhaps, or maybe a crowd of people in a busy shopping area. If however you take the same walk in the company of a wheelchair user you are likely to encounter an entirely different experience. The streets become a nightmare of obstacles to avoid and inaccessible areas requiring a detour, and suddenly what had been a pleasurable experience becomes a significant effort. Despite building and planning code updates to improve the situation, and millions of dollars invested in ramps, lifts, and other improvements, there remain so many problems to be addressed. Meanwhile legislators and the general public imagine that something has been done, the accessibility box has been ticked, and they can move on to the next thing that captures their attention.

The paralympian athlete [Tatyana McFadden] is an ambassador for the Toyota Mobility Foundation’s Mobility Unlimited Challenge, a global competition with the aim of improving mobility for people with disabilities. She’s written a piece introducing the challenge from her informed point of view as a wheelchair user, and makes the point that the basic design of a chair has not significantly changed since the 1930s. Her sentence: “There may be more hype around Bitcoin, but innovators could have far more impact if they turned their attention to how they can make the freedom to move available to all.” is one to make those of us with an interest in technology stop and think. To introduce the challenge they’ve released a glossy video, and we’ve placed it below the break.

As part of this year’s Hackaday Prize, we had an Assistive Technologies section that attracted some fantastic entries. That demonstrates that our community has plenty of people with the required skills, experience, and ideas to make a difference, and we hope that some of them might be among the entries for the Mobility Unlimited competition. If it excites your interest, we’d like to urge you to give it a second look.

A word of warning though – take care to avoid the Engineer Saviour Trap.

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