Cerebral Palsy Tool Assistant

We all deserve to create. Some people seem to have the muses hidden in their pocket, but everyone benefits when they express themselves in their chose art form. Each of us has tools, from Dremels to paintbrushes, and many folks here build their own implements. Even if we don’t have our macro-enabled mechanical keyboard or a dual-extrusion printer, we can make due. But what if you couldn’t operate your drill, or mouse, or even a pencil? To us, that would be excruciating and is the reality for some. [Laura Roth] and [Christopher Sweeney] are art teachers designing a tool holder for their students with cerebral palsy so that they can express themselves independently.

On either side of this banner image, you can see pencil drawings from [Sara], who has spastic cerebral palsy. She made these drawings while wearing the tool holder modeled after her hand. Now, that design serves other students and is part of the 2020 Hackaday Prize. The tool holder wraps around the wrist like a wide bracelet. Ribbing keeps its shape, and a tube accepts cylindrical objects, like pencils, styluses, and paintbrushes.The result is that the tip of the pencil is not far from where it would have been if held in the hand, but this sidesteps issues with grip and fine control in hands and fingers.

The print is available as an STL and should be printed with flexible filament to ensure it’s comfortable to wear. Be mindful of digital styluses which may need something conductive between the barrel and user.

Hackers are familiar with the challenges of cerebral palsy, and we’ve enjoyed seeing a variety of solutions over the years like door openers, camera gimbals, and just being altogether supportive.

Assistive Gloves Come In Pairs

We have to hand it to this team, their entry for the 2020 Hackaday Prize is a classic pincer maneuver. A team from [The University of Auckland] in New Zealand and [New Dexterity] is designing a couple of gloves for both rehabilitation and human augmentation. One style is a human-powered prosthetic for someone who has lost mobility in their hand. The other form uses soft robotics and Bluetooth control to move the thumb, fingers, and an extra thumb (!).

The human-powered exoskeleton places the user’s hand inside a cabled glove. When they are in place, they arch their shoulders and tighten an artificial tendon across their back, which pulls their hand close. To pull the fingers evenly, there is a differential box which ensures pressure goes where it is needed, naturally. Once they’ve gripped firmly, the cables stay locked, and they can relax their shoulders. Another big stretch and the cords relax.

In the soft-robotic model, a glove is covered in inflatable bladders. One set spreads the fingers, a vital physical therapy movement. Another bladder acts as a second thumb for keeping objects centered in the palm. A cable system draws the fingers closed like the previous glove, but to lock them they evacuate air from the bladders, so jamming layers retain their shape, like food in a vacuum bag.

We are excited to see what other handy inventions appear in this year’s Hackaday Prize, like the thumbMouse, or how about more assistive tech that uses hoverboards to help move people?

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Open Exosuit Project Helps Physically Challenged Put One Foot In Front Of Another

Humans make walking look simple, but of course that’s an illusion easily shattered by even small injuries. Losing the ability to walk has an enormous impact on every part of your day, so rehabilitative advances are nothing short of life-changing. The Open Exosuit for Differently Abled project is working feverishly on their Hackaday Prize entry to provide a few different layers of help in getting people back on their feet.

We’ve seen a number of exosuit projects in the past, and all of them struggle in a few common places. It’s difficult to incorporate intuitive user control into these builds, and quite important that they stay out of the way of the user’s own balance. This one approaches those issues with the use of a walker that both provides a means of steadying one’s self, and facilitates sending commands to the exosuit. Using the OLED screen and buttons incorporated on the walker, the user can select and control the walking, sitting, and standing modes.

The exoskeleton is meant to provide assistance to people with weakness or lack of control. They still walk and balance for themselves, but the hope is that these devices will be an aid at times when human caregivers are not available and the alternative would be unsteady mobility or complete loss of mobility. Working with the assistive device has the benefit of continuing to make progress in strengthening on the march to recovery.

The team is hard at work on the design, and with less than two weeks left before the entry deadline of the 2020 Hackaday Prize, we’re excited to see where the final push will bring this project!

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Overlooked Minimalism In Assistive Technology

If your eyes are 20/20, you probably do not spend much time thinking about prescription eyeglasses. It is easy to overlook that sort of thing, and we will not blame you. When we found this creation, it was over two years old, but we had not seen anything quite like it. The essence of the Bear Paw Assistive Eating Aid is a swiveling magnet atop a suction cup base. Simple right? You may already be thinking about how you could build or model that up in a weekend, and it would not be a big deal. The question is, could you make something like this if you had not seen it first?

Over-engineered inventions with lots of flexibility and room for expansion have their allure. When you first learn Arduino, every problem looks like a solution for that inexpensive demo board and one day you find yourself wearing an ATMEGA wristwatch. Honestly, we love those just as much but for an entirely different reason. When all the bells and whistles are gone, when there is nothing left but a robust creation that, “just works,” you have created something beautiful. Judging by the YouTube comments of the video, which can be seen below the break, those folks have no trouble overlooking the charm of this device since the word “beard” appears 95 times and one misspelling for a “bread” count of one. Hackaday readers are a higher caliber and should be able to appreciate its elegance.

The current high-tech solution for self-feeding is a robot arm, not unlike this one which is where our minds went when we heard about an invention about eating without using hands, and we will always be happy to talk about robot arms.

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Shining A Light On Hearing Loss

When auditory cells are modified to receive light, do you see sound, or hear light? To some trained gerbils at University Medical Center Göttingen, Germany under the care of [Tobias Moser], the question is moot. The gerbils were instructed to move to a different part of their cage when administrators played a sound, and when cochlear lights were activated on their modified cells, the gerbils obeyed their conditioning and went where they were supposed to go.

In the linked article, there is software which allows you to simulate what it is like to hear through a cochlear implant, or you can check out the video below the break which is not related to the article. Either way, improvements to the technology are welcome, and according to [Tobias]: “Optical stimulation may be the breakthrough to increase frequency resolution, and continue improving the cochlear implant”. The first cochlear implant was installed in 1964 so it has long history and a solid future.

This is not the only method for improving cochlear implants, and some don’t require any modified cells, but [Tobias] explained his reasoning. “I essentially took the harder route with optogenetics because it has a mechanism I understand,” and if that does not sound like so many hackers who reach for the tools they are familiar with, we don’t know what does. Revel in your Arduinos, 555 timers, transistors, or optogenetically modified cells, and know that your choice of tool is as powerful as the wielder.

Optogenetics could become a hot ticket at bio maker spaces. We have talked about optogenetics in lab rodents before, but it also finds purchase in zebrafish and roundworm.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Dynamometer For Post Stroke Rehabilitation

For those who have suffered a stroke, recovery is a long and slow process that requires rehabilitation to start as early as possible. Quite often, secondary stroke attacks complicate matters. Spasticity — muscle contraction and paresis — muscular weakness, are two of the many common after-effects of stroke. Recovery involves doing repeated exercises to strengthen the muscles and bring back muscle memory. Benchmarking progress becomes difficult when caregivers are only able to use qualitative means such as squeezing tennis balls to monitor improvement. To help provide quantitative measurements in such cases, [Sergei V. Bogdanov] is building a Dynamometer for Post-Stroke Rehabilitation. It is an Open Source, 4-channel differential force gauge for measuring and logging the progress of the patient. The device measures, graphs, and logs the force exerted by the four fingers when they push down on the four force gauges.

The device consists of four strain gauges obtained from cheap kitchen scales. The analog outputs from these are fed to HX-711 24-bit ADC boards. An Arduino Nano processes the data and displays it on two banks of eight-digit LED modules. [Sergei] also experimented with a 20×4 character LCD in place of the LED display. In the standalone mode, the device can only indicate the measured forces on the LED (or LCD) display which is calibrated to display either numerical values or a logarithmic scale. When connected to a serial port and using the (Windows only) program, it is possible to not only view the same information but also save it at regular, set intervals. The data can also be viewed in graphical form.

The project page provides links to their Arduino code, Windows monitor program as well as build instructions. Check out the related assistive technology project that [Sergei] is working on — A Post Stroke Spasticity Rehab Helper.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Post Stroke Spasticity Rehab Helper

A stroke is caused when poor blood flow to the brain causes cell damage, causing that part of the brain to stop functioning. Common causes are either blood vessel blockage or internal bleeding, and effects depend on the part of the brain that is affected. In most cases, spasticity (muscle contraction), poor motor control and the inability to move and feel are common after effects. Recovery is often a long, slow process and involves re-learning the affected lost skills. This is where physical therapy using assistive technologies becomes important. Rehabilitation must start as early as possible since the first few weeks are critical for good recovery. [Sergei V. Bogdanov] is building a cheap and simple Post-Stroke Spasticity Rehab Helper to address this problem.

He’s using ten hobby micro servos connected to an Arduino Nano, all mounted on a kitchen chopping board, with a few other bits thrown in to round out the build. There’s one pair of servos for each finger. A five bar linkage converts the servo rotations to two-dimensional motion. The end of the linkage has a swiveling metallic disk. Patient fingers are attached to these discs via magnetic metal pads that are attached to the end of the fingers using adhesive plaster tape. Two push buttons cycle through a large number of exercise modes and two potentiometer’s help adjust the speed and smoothness (the number of points calculated for the desired motion). Two 7-segment LED display modules connected to the Arduino provides a visual interface showing program modes, speed, number of cycles and other relevant information. Replicating the project ought to be very straightforward since the device uses off-the-shelf parts which are easy to put together using the detailed build instructions, photos and code posted on [Sergei]’s project page. Check out the videos below to see the rehab helper in action.

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