A Hoverboard As An Assistive Device

Assistive devices for people with disabilities can make an inestimable difference to their lives, but with a combination of technology, complexity, and often one-off builds for individual needs, they can be eye-wateringly expensive. When the recipient is a young person who may grow out of more than one device as they mature, this cost can be prohibitive. Some way to cut down on the expense is called for, and [Phil Malone] has identified the readily available hoverboard as a possible source of motive power for devices that need it.

Aside from being a children’s toy, hoverboards have been well and truly hacked; we’ve featured them in Hacky Racers, and as hacker camp transport. But this is an application which demands controllability and finesse not needed when careering round a dusty field. He’s taken that work and built upon it to produce a firmware that he calls HUGS, designed to make the hoverboard motors precisely controllable. It’s a departure from the norm in hoverboard hacking, but perhaps it can open up new vistas in the use of these versatile components.

There is much our community can do when it comes to improving access to assistive technologies, and we hope that this project can be one of the success stories. We would however caution every reader to avoid falling into the engineer savior trap.

Assistive Specs Help Jog Your Memory

It’s something that can happen to all of us, that we forget things. Young and old, we know things are on our to-do list but in the heat of the moment they disappear from our minds and we miss them. There are a myriad of technological answers to this in the form of reminders and calendars, but [Nick Bild] has come up with possibly the most inventive yet. His Newrons project is a pair of glasses with a machine vision camera, that flashes a light when it detects an object in its field of view associated with a calendar entry.

At its heart is a JeVois A33 Smart Machine Vision Camera, which runs a neural network trained on an image dataset. It passes its sightings to an Arduino Nano IoT fitted with a real-time clock, that pulls appointment information from Google Calendar and flashes the LED when it detects a match between object and event. His example which we’ve placed below the break is a pill bottle triggering a reminder to take the pills.

We like this idea, but can’t help thinking that it has a flaw in that the reminder relies on the object moving into view. A version that tied this in with more conventional reminding based upon the calendar would address this, and perhaps save the forgetful a few problems.

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This Servo Actuated Multimeter Does The Twist

This tip comes our way courtesy of [Elad Orbach], who’s been experimenting with a device that uses a servo to turn the function dial on a multimeter. It’s something you can put together in a few minutes with leftovers from the parts bin, and as you can see in the video after the break, the basic concept seems to be sound enough.

As to finding a practical reason for spinning the switch on your meter with a servo, that’s left largely as an exercise for the reader. [Elad] hints at the possibility of using such a setup to help automate repetitive testing, which we could see being useful especially in combination with a foot pedal that allows you to switch modes without having to put the probes down. The same basic idea could also be helpful as an assistive device for those who have difficulty grasping or limited dexterity.

Whether top of the line or bottom of the barrel, the multimeter is easily the hardware hacker’s most frequently used tool (beyond the screwdriver, perhaps). We’ve seen plenty of projects that try to graft additional features onto this common gadgets, though automation isn’t usually among them.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: UAProsthetics, A Powered Hand

One of the great successes of desktop 3D printers is custom prosthetics and orthotics. For a fraction of the price of a prosthetic arm, you can buy a machine capable of producing hundreds of completely customizable prosthetics. [Taran Ravindran]’s project in the running for the 2017 Hackaday Prize follows the long tradition of building customized prosthetics. His prosthetic hand designed to be simpler and cheaper than conventional artificial limbs while still giving us some innovation in how this hand will move.

The digits on [Taran]’s hand are controlled by linear servos pulling on a series of Bowden cables. One servo actuates the index finger, with a double differential to close the three less important figures — the middle, ring, and pinky fingers don’t need the articulation of the forefinger and thumb. Those three are actuated together, saving cost and complexity — they basically operate to support the index and thumb rather than being controllable independently. The thumb has 2 DOF by itself to give it the maximum amount of utility.

Another area of importance [Taran]’s focusing on is the matter of ease of use. If the prosthesis is too complicated, difficult, or unpleasant to use, it won’t get used regardless of its awesome features. Knowing this, he focused on making the hand as simplified as possible. Right now, the project has been modeled in CAD, and [Taran] is just waiting for the SLS parts to arrive before assembling the whole thing. It’s a great project, and a great entry for this year’s Hackaday Prize.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Personal Guardian Keeps An Eye Out

The Personal Guardian is a wearable tracking and monitoring device intended to help vulnerable people. The project goal is to allow these patients as much independence and activity as possible without a caregiver needing to be present. Wearing a sensor package might allow a memory care patient (for instance) greater freedom to wander.

The device consists of an Arduino 101 development board with a GSM shield that it uses to send SMS messages to the caregiver — for instance, if the accelerometer shows the patient fell over, or moved beyond certain GPS coordinates. Furthermore, the care-giver can monitor the device to determine the device’s status, and sees the patient’s heart rate thanks to a BLE sensor strap.

The patient can also press a panic button or toggle through a series pre-set SMS messages. In terms of complexity, the project’s creator [Ray Lynch] intended the interface to be simpler than a smart phone.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Economical Bionic Leg

When it comes to high-tech bionic legs for amputees, all the cool stuff is titanium, carbon fiber or other, more exotic materials. With carbon fiber “blades” all the rage, it’s easy to forget that simpler technologies still work, and could be made to work even better with the addition of some inexpensive electronics. The Economical Bionic Leg project is the result of that idea.

Project creators [PremJ20] and [G.Vignesh] aren’t kidding about bringing the cost of these bionic legs down. The target goal is $60 per, with stainless steel and silicon rubber as a cheaper alternative to carbon fiber — the rubber would be molded to fit the amputated region. The heart of the project is a Particle Photon development board, with a flex sensor and accelerometer monitoring the prosthesis and supplying data to the cloud. It’s essentially a basic prosthetic leg with a monitoring system built in. Placing a sensor cuff on the regular leg, the artificial limb’s flexibility can be fine-tuned to match the two.

Will this inexpensive bionic leg ever compete in the Olympics, like [Oscar Pistorious] run in the 2012 London event? Probably not — the tech that goes into artificial limbs has the same amount of material science going into it as F1 racing and turbojet design. Still, this is a very cheap way to bring tech into something that desperately needs to be cheaper, and it’s a great Hackaday Prize entry, to boot.