Man Spends 30 Years Helping Disabled Gamers

xbox_sip_puff

Using our hands to manipulate game controllers is something most of us take for granted. However for quadriplegics, whose arms and legs are completely paralyzed, gaming becomes a nearly impossible task. One man has spent the last 30 years of his life trying to help quadriplegics once again “pick up” the controller and enjoy a few rounds of their favorite video games.

Retired aerospace engineer [Ken Yankelevitz] has been using his skills to create game controllers that can be easily used by disabled gamers, offering them for sale at cost. Starting with Atari joysticks in 1981, he has been perfecting his craft over the years, creating some 800 mouth-operated game controllers. As the systems and their controllers became more complex, so did [Ken’s] designs. His new Xbox and Playstation controllers use all manner of components, including sip-puff tubes and lip-activated buttons in order to allow users to access every single controller function.

Even as he approaches his 70th birthday, he is busy making controllers, though at a slower pace than he has in the past. He has said that he will continue making them for as long as he can, but at some point he will have to close up shop. This has disabled gamers worried that they may no longer have someone to turn to for custom controllers, though we hope someone steps in to fill the gap whenever that day comes.

Be sure to check out his site to take a look at his designs, what he has done for the disabled community is amazing.

Robotic Mobility For The Little Ones

Researchers at the University of Delaware are helping disabled kids by designing robot transportation for them. Exploring one’s environment is an important part of early development. Disabilities that limit mobility can prevent young children from experiencing this. Typically children are not offered a powered wheelchair until they are five or six years old, but adding intelligent technologies, like those found in the UD1, makes this possible at a much younger age. Proximity sensors all around the drive unit of the robot add obstacle avoidance and ensure safety when used around other children. When confronted with an obstacle the UD1 will stop, or navigate around it. The unit is controlled by a joystick in front of the rider but it can also be overridden remotely by a teacher, parent, or caregiver.

[via Robot Gossip]

WiiMote Accessibility Modifications

[Catea] has put some considerable effort into making a wiimote more accessible to people with physical disabilities. He started by extending the buttons out to much larger versions mounted on a lap tray. This makes playing games much easier for those that are lacking the fine motor skills to hit the buttons on the wiimote. This alone is a pretty substantial improvement, but [Catea] wanted to do more.

Taking the whole idea further, [Catea] published a second instructible where he outlines the process of adding two Arduinos and  Xbee modulse to make the external buttons wireless.

A Day At The Lake For The Disabled

We do a lot of useless hacks just for the fun of it so when we see something with purpose it’s pretty exciting. This hack turns any kayak into a motorized vessel that can be controlled by a quadriplegic person using a sip & puff interface. After the break you can see some clips of navigation and an explanation of the hardware.

[Mark’s] system starts by adding outriggers to a kayak to prevent the possibility of the boat rolling over in the water. Each pontoon has an electric trolling motor attached to it that is controlled by an Arduino via a motor driver.

The Arduino takes navigational commands from a sip & puff controller. A straw in the operator’s mouth allows them to sip or puff for a split second to turn left or right. Longer sips or puffs control forward and reverse incrementally, up to a top speed of about 3.7 miles per hour. [Mark] incorporated an auxiliary remote control interface so that a safety observer can take control of navigation if necessary.

His build came in around $1300, a tiny cost if this makes kayaking available to several people each summer. Great job [Mark]! Continue reading “A Day At The Lake For The Disabled”

Point Laser, Get Beer

Simply tag something with a laser and El-E will go get it for you. We know this is for the disabled, but we can’t help but think of how nice it would be to have around the house. The system is programmed to recognize the illumination from a green laser and is constructed to be able to reach things from the floor as well as tables and shelves. I wonder if they have programmed El-E to go get the laser for you if you leave it somewhere, kind of like when you leave the TV remote across the room.

[via Gearlog]

Tongue Drive System Turns Mouth Into Virtual Keyboard


Researchers at Georgia Tech are working on a Tongue Drive System, which transforms the tongue into a tool that can manipulate computers and manage appliances and wheelchairs. This project has huge implications for the disabled, especially for those with few motor skills and limited movement. Many disabled Americans are paralyzed from the neck down, and this system could be a literal lifesaver, providing them with a method of communication and control over their own lives. Scientists have been attracted to the tongue’s potential for a long time. It provides several advantages over using other organs or appendages. It’s very sensitive, tactile, is not connected to the spinal cord, and does not usually end up being harmed in accidents. By placing a tiny magnet underneath the tongue, it’s transformed into a virtual keyboard. Sensors placed in the cheek track the magnet’s movement and processes the commands into directions for electronics, be it a wheelchair or a home appliance. We’re excited to see where this will go.