We've seen a number of technologies that speak on behalf of paralyzed
people who are unable to do so. While some of these utilize cues as
subtle as eye movements,
the fact is that many severely paralyzed patients are unable to manage
even those. That's why researchers at Britain's Loughborough University
have created a system that speaks words based on the user's breathing.
Amputees in developing nations frequently can't afford the high-end
prostheses used by people in other parts of the world. That's why
Technological University of Mexico spin-off company Protesta is
developing a low-cost artificial arm made from lightweight polyethylene
terephthalate (PET) plastic. As an added bonus, the arm will alert the
user if it gets too hot.
Besides building luxury cars and motorcycles, BMW has made some pretty impressive sports gear, including an Olympic bobsled that drove Team USA to men's bronze and women's silver and bronze medals at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. BMW of North America announced today that it is now focusing attention on the upcoming 2016 Paralympic Games. It's reaching into its deep well of mechanical know-how to develop a racing wheelchair for the US track and field team.
Some higher-end prosthetic legs are equipped with things like gyroscopes
and accelerometers, in order to guide their knee joint through a more
natural bending motion. In developing nations, however, such expensive
prostheses usually aren't an option. That's why a scientist from MIT is
developing a knee that could allow inexpensive legs to perform like the
There are now a number of powered exoskeletons either on the market or in development, all of which allow people who lack the use of their legs to walk in an upright position. The ReWalk
device is without doubt the best-known, having been commercially
available since 2012. This week, ReWalk Robotics announced the sixth
version of the product, which is reportedly better-fitting, faster and
less bulky than its predecessors.
A telepresence robot developed at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) that can be controlled by thought may give people with severe motor disabilities a greater level of independence. Successfully put through its paces by 19 people scattered around Central Europe – nine of whom are quadriplegic and all of whom were hooked up to a brain-machine interface – the robot handled obstacle detection and avoidance on its own while the person controlling it gave general navigation instructions.
We've seen tracked wheelchairs
before, that are able to take on steep or uneven terrain. For regular
surfaces, however, wheels make more sense. That's why a group of
students from ETH Zurich and the Zurich University of the Arts are
creating the Scalevo electric wheelchair, which features wheels for
cruising and tracks for climbing stairs.
After taking a look at the Jet Blade hydroplaning watercraft last week, we were alerted to another senior design project from Calvin College, Michigan. A different group of students has designed and prototyped a device they're calling the TheraTryke. Aimed at those with MS, spinal cord injuries, or complete paraplegics, it lets riders use their hands, feet or a combination of both together to propel themselves forward.
Last year we heard about the GRIT Freedom Chair,
an off-road wheelchair that users propel using arm levers instead of
hand rims on the wheels. While it's pretty neat, it isn't the first
product of its kind. One of its predecessors is the British-made
Mountain Trike, which is now available in two new models to accommodate
riders with varying physical challenges.
Just because you have difficulty walking doesn't mean that you should be limited to the smooth sidewalks and asphalt paths of the world ... at least, not according to folks at Sweden's Zoomability. Their Zoom 4-wheel drive electric vehicle can be operated entirely by hand, allowing people with limited mobility – or anyone else – to get in some off-road action.