Hackaday Prize Entry: OrthoSense, a Smart Knee Brace for Physical Therapy

If you have knee surgery, you can probably count on some physical therapy to go with it. But one thing you might not be able to count on is getting enough attention from your therapist. This was the case with [Vignesh]’s mother, who suffers from osteoarthritis (OA). Her physiotherapist kept a busy schedule and couldn’t see her very often, leaving her to wonder at her rehabilitation progress.

[Vignesh] already had a longstanding interest in bio-engineering and wearables. His mother’s experience led him down a rabbit hole of research about the particulars of OA rehabilitation. He found that less than 35% of patients adhere to the home regimen they were given. While there are a lot of factors at play, the lack of feedback and reinforcement are key components. [Vignesh] sought to develop a simple system for patients and therapists to share information.

The fruit of this labor is Orthosense, an intelligent knee brace system that measures gait angle, joint acoustics, and joint strain.  The user puts on the brace, pairs it with a device, and goes through their therapy routine. Sensors embedded in the brace upload their data to the cloud over Bluetooth.

Joint strain is measured by a narrow strip of conductive fabric running down the length of the knee. As the user does their exercises, the fabric stretches and relaxes, changing resistances all the while. The changes are measured against a Wheatstone bridge voltage divider. The knee’s gait angle is measured with an IMU and is calculated relative to the hip angle—this gives a reference point for the data collected by the strain sensor. An electret mic and a sensitive contact mic built for body sounds picks up all the pops and squeaks emitted by the knee. Analysis of this data provides insight into the condition of the cartilage and bones that make up the joint. As you might imagine, unhealthy cartilage is noisier than healthy cartilage.

[Vignesh]’s prototype is based the tinyTILE because of the onboard IMU, ADC, and Bluetooth. Since all things Curie are being discontinued, the next version will either use something nRF52832 or a BC127 module and a la carte sensors. [Vignesh] envisions a lot for this system, and we are nodding our heads to all of it.

A Slew Of NYC Meetups With Tindie And Hackaday This Week

This is a busy, busy week for Tindie and Hackaday. We’re going to New York, and we have a ton of events planned.

First up is the monthly Hackaday meetup. This time, we’re teaming up with Kickstarter for a pre-Maker Faire Meetup. We’ll be hosting this at Kickstarter’s HQ, and already we have an impressive line of speakers set up to talk about Assistive Technology. These speakers include:

  • Anita Perr and R. Luke Dubois from the NYU Ability Project
  • Andrew Chepaitis from ELIA Life Technology

Also on deck for the for the Hackaday x Kickstarter meetup are live demos from WearWorks, who are developing the WAYBAND, a haptic navigation device and from Elia Frames, a tactile reading system.

The Hackaday x Kickstarter meetup will be Thursday, September 21st, starting at 6:30pm. Here’s the link to RSVP.

This weekend is also World Maker Faire New York and Tindie will be out in force showcasing all the wonderful bits and bobs developed by the Tindie community.

On deck will be [Jasmine] and [Brandon] from Tindie, and of course we’re inviting Tindie sellers to drop by the booth throughout the weekend and showcase their wares.

Also on deck for the World Maker Faire will be [Shulie], [Shayna] and myself. We’ll be tossing brand new Tindie stickers into the audience and giving out Tindie Blinky Badges. If you’ve ever wanted to show your enthusiasm for DIY hardware, now you can with an electronic blinky lapel pin. Solder it up and listen to Benchoff rationalize why it doesn’t need a current limiting resistor! Such fun!

Hackaday Prize Entry: Touch Sensitive Power Supplies For EL Panels

[fool]’s entry in the Hackaday Prize competition is a modular and configurable lighting system the purpose of which is to assist seniors and others with limited mobility navigate safely at home. For [fool], this means the quiet steady hum of electroluminescent panels and wire. EL stuff is notoriously tricky to power, as it only operates on AC. The MoonLITE project is the answer to the problem of an easy to use EL power supply. The goal is to create a 5 watt, quiet, wearable EL power supply that outputs 100V at 100Hz.

One of the reasons why [fool] is interested in EL materials is that it can also turned into a touch sensor. This has obvious applications in lighting, and especially in assistive technologies. The MoonLITE project is based around [fool]’s Whoa Board that turns EL wires and panels into not only touch-sensitive lights, but also analog switches that can control basically anything. This unique capability of lighting doubling as a sensor offers the opportunity to make light-up EL grab bars for a senior’s bedside, for instance. He or she is going to be touching it anyway when getting up—why not add light as well as stability?

This is an especially cool project that brings something to the table we don’t really see much of. You can check out a video of the project below, complete with example of EL panels being used as buttons.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Staircane, a Walker That Takes the Stairs

[Jim]’s aunt has lived in the same house for the last 50 years. She loves it there, and she wants to stay as long as possible. There’s a big problem, though. The house has several staircases, and they are all beginning to disagree with her. Enter Staircane, [Jim]’s elegant solution that adds extendable legs to any standard walker.

Most of the time, walkers serve their purpose quite well. But once you encounter uneven ground or a staircase, they show their limitations. The idea behind Staircane is a simple one: quickly extend the back or front legs of a walker depending on the situation, and do so in unison. Staircane uses one button for each set of legs. Pushing the button engages a thin cable, much like the brake cable on a bicycle. The cable pulls a release trigger, unlocking the notched extensions. When the legs are sufficiently extended, the user simply releases the button to lock them in place. Once on flat ground, the user pushes the button again while pressing down on the walker to even out the leg lengths. Check out the video after the break to see the 3D-printed prototype.

Staircane is a semi-finalist in our Wheels, Wings, and Walkers challenge, which ended a few weeks ago. Did you know that you can enter your project into more than one challenge? Since this project falls squarely into assistive technologies territory, we hope that [Jim] and his team submit Staircane to our Assistive Technologies challenge before the deadline on September 4th. We don’t have many entries so far, so if  you’re thinking about entering, give in to temptation!

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Hackaday’s Assistive Technology Challenge Begins Now

This morning marks a new challenge in the Hackaday Prize: we want to see what you can do with Assistive Technology. Twenty entries will win $1000 each, becoming part of the final round for a chance at the top prizes ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.

Assistive Technology means things that help people by improving their quality of life. This can take so many forms but broadly speaking this could make aging easier, turn disabilities into abilities, or enhance the access and delivery of health care.

We’ve seen great things in this area from the Hackaday community. The Grand Prize for the 2015 Hackaday Prize went to an assistive technology that linked motorized wheelchairs to gaze-controlled computers, called Eyedrivomatic. And at the 2016 Hackaday SuperConference we learned how common tools and crowd sourced skills can lead to a new take on physical rehabilitation with a robot-assisted elbow.

The Hackaday Prize challenges us all to Build Something that Matters. It’s hard to argue that there is a better place to take on this challenge than with Assistive Technologies. Enter your project today!

Beyond The Prize: Eye Driving Wheelchairs

For this year’s Hackaday Prize, we opened up five challenges for hackers and tinkerers to create the greatest hardware in five categories. We asked citizen scientists to build something to expand the frontiers of knowledge. We asked automation experts to build something more useful than the Internet of chocolate chip cookies. In the Assistive Technologies portion of the prize, we asked our community of engineers to build something that would open the world up to all of us.

While this year’s Assistive Technologies challenge brought out some great projects, there is one project from last year that must be mentioned. The Eyedrivomatic is a project to turn any electric wheelchair into a gaze-controlled robotic wheelchair, opening up the world to a population who has never had this level of accessibility at a price this low.

eyedriveomatic-hardwareThe Eyedrivomatac was the winner of last year’s Hackaday Prize, and given the scope of the project, it’s not hard to see why. The Eyedriveomatic is the solution to the problem of mobility for quadriplegics. It does this surprisingly simply by adding a servo-powered robot onto the joystick of an electric wheelchair, with everything controlled by eye gaze technology. While other systems similar to this exist, it’s the cost of the Eyedrivomatic system that makes it special. The robotic half of the project can be easily manufactured on any 3D printer, all the associated hardware can be bought for just a few dollars, and the software stack is completely open source. The entire system is interchangeable between different models of electric wheelchairs without any modifications, too.

Since winning last year’s Hackaday Prize, Patrick, Steve, and David of the Eyedrivomatic project received the grand prize of $196,883, and are now working towards starting their own production run of their revolutionary device. Right now, there’s a small cottage industry of eye gaze controlled wheelchairs cropping up, and the Eyedrivomatic team is busy building and assembling systems for electric wheelchair users across the globe.

The Eyedrivomatic is the best the Hackaday Prize has to offer. At its heart, it’s an extremely simple device — just a few 3D printed parts, a few servos, an Arduino, and some open source software. The impact the Eyedrivomatic has on its users can’t be understated. It is a liberating technology, one of the greatest projects we’ve seen, and we’ve very proud to have the Eyedrivomatic as a Hackaday Prize champion.

Continue reading “Beyond The Prize: Eye Driving Wheelchairs”

Calling All Procrastinators

We have your number… you’re one who likes to while away the daylight hours, then make a mad effort throughout the night to finish everything before the sun again rises. In fact, that describes a lot of us Hackaday writers.

Put those well-honed cramming skills to good use this weekend, because Monday morning is the deadline to enter the 2016 Hackaday Prize. The current challenge is to show us your Assistive Technology. Prototyping some hardware to make life a little bit better for people dealing with a disability, to help those who are aging in place, to provide more widespread access to health care, and the like. We will pick 20 entries from this challenge to win $1000 each and become eligible for one of the five huge prizes.

Huge prizes you say? We’re talking about a grand prize of $150,000 and a residency at the Supplyframe Design Lab in Pasadena, plus four other cash prizes of $25k, $10k, $10k, and $5k. Twenty final projects have been chosen from each of the first four challenges, and there have already been over 1000 total entries! But your chances of pulling a rabbit out of the hat this weekend are still really good. So far there are just under 200 entries in this final challenge — twenty will move forward on Monday.

Call up your friends and stock up on Red Vines and Red Bull (Club Mate if you can get it). Occupy your hackerspace and get to work. If you are pulling all nighter’s in a bid to take Assistive Technology by storm, make sure you let us know on Twitter so we can follow along.