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: Remote Control by Head Gestures

Some people may think they’re having a bad day when they can’t find the TV remote. Yet there are some people who can’t even hold a remote, let alone root around in the couch cushions where the remote inevitably winds up. This entry in the Assistive Technologies phase of the 2017 Hackaday Prize seeks to help such folks, with a universal remote triggered by head gestures.

Mobility impairments can range from fine motor control issues to quadriplegia, and people who suffer from them are often cut off from technology by the inability to operate devices. [Cassio Batista] concentrated on controlling a TV for his project, but it’s easy to see how his method could interface with other IR remotes to achieve control over everything from alarm systems to windows and drapes. His open-source project uses a web cam to watch a user’s head gestures, and OpenCV running on a CHIP SBC looks for motion in the pitch, yaw, and roll axes to control volume, channel, and power. An Arduino takes care the IR commands to the TV. The prototype works well in the video below; with the power of OpenCV we can imagine mouth gestures and even eye blinks adding to the controller’s repertoire.

The Assistive Tech phase wraps up tomorrow, so be sure to get your entries in. You’ll have some stiff competition, like this robotic exoskeleton. But don’t let that discourage you.

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Swedish Senior Rolls in Style with Hybrid Hoverboard Walker

You don’t have to know a word Swedish to understand that 86-year old [Lasse Thörn] is the coolaste modernaste pensionären in Gränna. All you have to do is see him rolling on his walker-assisted hoverboard and you’ve got the whole story.

Still, not knowing any Swedish and the spotty nature of Google translations makes it hard to discern the details of this build. Did [Lasse] build the folding aluminum bracket that connects the battery-powered hoverboard to his walker himself? We guess that he did, since another story says that he built a pedal boat back in the 1950s because he thought it sounded cool. He also says that he gets a lot of attention when he’s out on his contraption, and that other seniors have asked him to build one. [Lasse] says he’s too old to start a business; we don’t think he’s giving himself enough credit, but if he’s willing to leave the field of affordable personal mobility open to the rest of us, we say go for it.

We’ve seen lots of hoverboard builds lately, and lots of hate in the comments about the use of that term. Seems like the false advertising vibe grates on folks, but face it: “rolling wheelie board” is kind of awkward, and until technology catches up with the laws of physics, it’s the best we’re going to do.

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Making a Mobility Scooter Drastically More Mobile

Do you have a spare mobility scooter sitting unused in your garage? Or, maybe you’ve got a grandmother who has been complaining about how long it takes her to get to bingo on Tuesdays? Has your local supermarket hired you to improve grocery shopping efficiency between 10am and 2pm? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then the guys over at Photon Induction have an “overclocked” mobility scooter build which should provide you with both inspiration and laughs.

They’ve taken the kind of inexpensive mobility scooter that can be found on Craigslist for a couple hundred dollars, and increased the battery output voltage to simultaneously improve performance and reduce safety. Their particular scooter normally runs on 24V, and all they had to do to drastically increase the driving speed was move that up to 60V (72V ended up burning up the motors).

Other than increasing the battery output voltage, only a couple of other small hacks were necessary to finish the build. Normally, the scooter uses a clutch to provide a gentle start. However, the clutch wasn’t up to the task of handling 60V, so the ignition switch was modified to fully engage the clutch before power is applied. The horn button was then used as the accelerator, which simply engages a solenoid with massive contacts that can handle 60V. The result is a scooter that is bound to terrify your grandmother, but which will get her to bingo in record time.

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Head Gesture Tracking Helps Limited Mobility Students

There is a lot of helpful technology for people with mobility issues. Even something that can help people do something most of us wouldn’t think twice about, like turn on a lamp or control a computer, can make a world of difference to someone who can’t move around as easily. Luckily, [Matt] has been working on using webcams and depth cameras to allow someone to do just that.

[Matt] found that using webcams instead of depth cameras (like the Kinect) tends to be less obtrusive but are limited in their ability to distinguish individual users and, of course, don’t have the same 3D capability. With either technology, though, the software implementation is similar. The camera can detect head motion and control software accordingly by emulating keystrokes. The depth cameras are a little more user-friendly, though, and allow users to move in whichever way feels comfortable for them.

This isn’t the first time something like a Kinect has been used to track motion, but for [Matt] and his work at Beaumont College it has been an important area of ongoing research. It’s especially helpful since the campus has many things on network switches (like lamps) so this software can be used to help people interact much more easily with the physical world. This project could be very useful to anyone curious about tracking motion, even if they’re not using it for mobility reasonsContinue reading “Head Gesture Tracking Helps Limited Mobility Students”

EEG the Locomotion

The use of brainwaves as control parameters for electronic systems is becoming quite widespread. The types of signals that we have access to are still quite primitive compared to what we might aspire to in our cyberpunk fantasies, but they’re a step in the right direction.

A very tempting aspect of accessing brain signals is that it can be used to circumvent physical limitations. [Jerkey] demonstrates this with his DIY brain-controlled electric wheelchair that can move people who wouldn’t otherwise have the capacity to operate joystick controls. The approach is direct, using a laptop to marshall EEG data which is passed to an arduino that simulates joystick operations for the control board of the wheelchair. From experience we know that it can be difficult to control EEGs off-the-bat, and [Jerky]’s warnings at the beginning of the instructable about having a spotter with their finger on the “off” switch should well be followed. Maybe some automated collision avoidance would be useful to include.

We’ve covered voice-operated wheelchairs before, and we’d like to know how the two types of control would stack up against one another. EEGs are more immediate than speech, but we imagine that they’re harder to control.

It would be interesting albeit somewhat trivial to see an extension of [Jerkey]’s technique as a way to control an ROV like Oberon, although depending on the faculties of the operator the speech control could be difficult (would that make it more convincing as an alien robot diplomat?).

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]