Magnetic Power Cable Makes Mobility Scooter Much Better

Sometimes, you have to wonder what major manufacturers of assistive tech are thinking when they design their products. [Niklas Frost]’s father has MS and uses an electric mobility scooter to get around. It’s a good solution to a terrible problem, except it stops short of the most important part — the charging scheme. Because of the aforementioned mobility issues, [Niklas]’s father can’t plug and unplug it without assistance. So much for independence.

And so [Niklas] gave it some thought and came up with an incredibly easy way that Dad can charge his scooter. It’s even non-intrusive — all it took was a handful of off-the-shelf components and some 3D printed parts to make what’s essentially an extension cord between the charger and the scooter. Really, there’s nothing more to it than three 10 A magnetic connectors, an XLR female port, an XLR male connector, and some very helpful plastic.

Something interesting to note: [Niklas] spent a year or so tinkering with a robot that could drive the plug over to the charger and plug it in. A book on the subject made him destroy that robot, however, when he realized that he was being driven more by cool technologies than solving the problem at hand. Within a few days of changing course, [Niklas]’ dad was charging his own scooter.

Now, if [Niklas] wants to see about making the scooter move a whole lot faster, we have just the thing.

Inputs Of Interest: The Svalboard Could Be Your Salvation

You know, sometimes dreams really do come true. When I told you about the DataHand keyboard almost four years ago, I never imagined I’d ever get to lay my hands on anything even remotely like it, between the original price point and the fact that they really, really hold their value. But thanks to [Morgan Venable], creator of the Svalboard, I can finally tell you what it’s like to type with your digits directionalized.

If you don’t recall, the DataHand was touted to be a total revolution in typing for RSI sufferers. It debuted in 1993 for a hefty price tag of about $1,500 — pretty far out of reach of the average consumer, but well within the budgets of the IT departments of companies who really wanted to keep their workers working. You want minimum finger travel? It doesn’t get more minimal than this concept of a d-pad plus the regular down action for each finger.

The Svalboard aims to be the new and improved solution for something that barely exists anymore, but still has a devoted following. Although the DataHand was built on a gantry and adjustable using knobs, the smallest fit possible on the thing is still rather big. Conversely, the Svalboard is fully customizable to suit any size hand and fingertip.

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Better Living Through Biomedical Engineering

We don’t often think of medicine and engineering as being related concepts, and most of the time, they aren’t. But there’s a point where medicine alone may not be enough to treat a particular ailment or injury, and it might be necessary to blend the mechanical with the biological. When a limb is lost, we don’t have the technology to regrow it, but we can apply engineering principles to build a functional facsimile that can help the patient regain lost independence and improve their quality of life.

The area where these two disciplines overlap is called biomedical engineering (BME), and it’s a field that’s seeing fantastic growth thanks to advances in 3D printing, materials science, and machine learning. It’s also a field where open source principles and DIY are making surprising inroads, as hobbyists look to put their own knowledge and experience to use by creating low-cost assistive devices — something we were honored to help facilitate over the years through the Hackaday Prize.

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Autonomous Wheelchair Lets Jetson Do The Driving

Compared to their manual counterparts, electric wheelchairs are far less demanding to operate, as the user doesn’t need to have upper body strength normally required to turn the wheels. But even a motorized wheelchair needs some kind of input from the user to control it, which still may pose a considerable challenge depending on the individual’s specific abilities.

Hoping to improve on the situation, [Kabilan KB] has developed a self-driving electric wheelchair that can navigate around obstacles by feeding the output of an Intel RealSense Depth Camera and LiDAR module into a Jetson Nano Developer Kit running OpenCV. To control the actual motors, the Jetson is connected to an Arduino which in turn is wired into a common L298N motor driver board.

As [Kabilan] explains on the NVIDIA Blog, he specifically chose off-the-shelf components and the most affordable electric wheelchair he could find to bring the total cost of the project as low as possible. An undergraduate from the Karunya Institute of Technology and Sciences in Coimbatore, India, he notes that this sort of assistive technology is usually only available to more affluent patients. With his cost-saving measures, he hopes to address that imbalance.

While automatic obstacle avoidance would already be a big help for many users, [Kabilan] imagines improved software taking things a step further. For example, a user could simply press a button to indicate which room of the house they want to move to, and the chair could drive itself there automatically. With increasingly powerful single-board computers and the state of open source self-driving technology steadily improving, it’s not hard to imagine a future where this kind of technology is commonplace.

Hackaday Prize 2023: Green Hacks Finalists

Time and tide wait for no hacker, even if they happen to spend their spare time working on the sort of eco-friendly projects that qualified for the Green Hacks challenge of the 2023 Hackaday Prize. This environmentally conscious round ended last month, and after plenty of carbon-neutral debate, our panel of judges have settled on their ten favorite projects.

As a reminder, the following projects will not only receive a $500 cash prize, but will move on to the Finals. They’ll then have until October to put the finishing touches on their creations in an effort to claim one of the final six awards, which includes the Grand Prize of $50,000 and a residency at the Supplyframe DesignLab. Although there can only be ten finalists for each round of the Hackaday Prize, we’d like to thank everyone who put the time and effort into submitting their Green Hacks. We’ve only got one Earth, and we’re all going to have to work together if we want to make sure it stays beautiful for future generations.

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Hackaday Prize 2023: Meet The Assistive Tech Finalists

If you’re still toiling away at your entry for the Gearing Up Challenge of the 2023 Hackaday Prize, don’t panic! No, you haven’t lost track of time — due to some technical difficulties we had to delay the final judging for the Assistive Tech Challenge that ended May 30th.

Today we’re pleased to announce that all the votes are in, and we’re ready to unveil the ten projects that our panel of judges felt best captured the spirit of this very important challenge. Each of these projects will take home $500 and move on to the final round of judging. There are few more noble pursuits than using your talents to help improve the lives of others, so although we could only pick ten finalists, we’d like to say a special thanks to everyone who entered this round.

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Hackaday Prize 2023: The Assistive Tech Challenge Starts Now

We’d all love to change the world and make it a better place, but let’s be honest…that’s a pretty tall order. Even the best of ideas, implemented perfectly, can only do so much globally. But that doesn’t mean the individual can’t make a difference — you just need to think on a different scale. If improving everyone’s life is a bit out of reach, why not settle for a smaller group? Or perhaps even just one person?

That’s precisely what we’re looking for in the Assistive Tech Challenge of the 2023 Hackaday Prize. In this Challenge, we’re asking the community to come up with ideas to help those with disabilities live fuller and more comfortable lives.

Whether you help develop an improved prosthesis that could benefit thousands, or design a bespoke communication device that gives a voice to just a single individual, it’s hard to imagine a more noble way to put your skills and knowledge to use.

Looking to lend a hand? You’ve got from now until May 30th to enter your Assistive Tech project. It doesn’t matter what kind of impairment it focuses on — so long as it helps somebody work, learn, or play, it’s fair game to us.

The ten finalists for this Challenge will be announced around June 12th, but you’ll have to wait until Hackaday Supercon in November to find out which projects take home their share of the more than $100,000 in cash prizes graciously provided by sponsors Digi-Key and SupplyFrame.

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