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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Teaching children to walk using video games

team_equiliberator

Medical conditions that prevent individuals from being able to walk are difficult to handle, even more so if the patient happens to be a child. Shriner’s hospitals treat a good number of children suffering from cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or amputations. They are always looking for creative treatment methods, so their Motion Analysis Laboratory looked to some Rice University undergrads for help. They asked the group of engineers to design a system that would make physical therapy a bit more fun, while helping encourage the children along.

The team recently unveiled their project, called the Equiliberator. The game system incorporates a series of five Wii balance boards situated between a pair of pressure-sensitive handrails. The platform communicates with a computer via Bluetooth, registering the patient’s movements as he or she moves along the path. The software portion of the system consists of a monster-slaying game which requires the child to step on a particular section of the pathway to dispose of the oncoming enemies.

The game is designed to get more difficult as the child’s balance and coordination improve, encouraging them with an ever growing bank of points as they progress. The final goal of the project is to enable the pressure sensitive handrails to determine how much the child is relying on them for balance, offering in-game incentives to walk with as little support as possible.

We love seeing hacks like this which not only entertain, but truly help people in the process. Kudos to the team at Rice University – they have done a fantastic job here.

Continue reading to see a quick video describing the Equiliberator in the designers’ own words.

[via MedGadget]

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iPhone case rehabilitation

[Richard Cabrera’s] iPhone was scratched from years of use. A big part of the appeal of Apple products is the dose of sexy that comes with them, so he set out to remedy this abomination. His iPhone case rehabilitation guide walks you through the miraculous transformation. One of the tools he uses is a headlight lens restoration kit from 3M because its polishing pads include graduated levels of grit for the transition from rough sanding to buffing. As you can see, the logo and text have been buffed off but that’s a small price to pay for what looks like a shiny new device.