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Disability

Despite some advances that have been made in the field, one of the continuing problems with hearing aids is the fact that they amplify background sound along with peoples' voices. While our brains are reasonably good at distinguishing between speech and distracting ambient noise, hearing aid users get the noise and the voice presented to them in one often-incomprehensible package. Researchers at The Ohio State University, however, may have a solution. They've developed a noise-filtering algorithm that's been shown to improve test subjects' recognition of spoken words by up to 90 percent. Read More

Released two years ago, the ReWalk powered exoskeleton allows wheelchair users to walk upright again – albeit with the additional help of a pair of crutches. This past Sunday (Nov. 17), a group of ReWalk users from around the world got together in New York City, where they used their exoskeletons to take part in a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) charity walk. Read More

Recently there's been increasing hope for people who have lost the use of their arms, as various research institutes have started developing prosthetic arms that can be controlled by thought alone. So far, all of the systems have just allowed users to control a single arm – for many of the tasks that we perform on a daily basis, that's simply not enough. Now, however, scientists at North Carolina's Duke University have succeeded in getting two rhesus monkeys to control both arms of animated digital avatars, using nothing but their mind. Read More
If someone has difficulty hearing, they can use a hearing aid to boost the level of sounds reaching their ear. If someone has limited vision to the point that they're considered legally blind, however, it's not like they can just use an electronic "seeing aid" ... right? Actually, that's just what eSight is. Read More
A couple of years ago at the Tokyo Motor Show, we came across an interesting prototype device known as the Whill. Looking sort of like a giant pair of headphones, it could be clamped over the wheels of an existing manual wheelchair, temporarily providing it with an electric drive system. Although that particular device was never commercialized, its makers recently let us know that a product based on the technology is now about to enter production – the Whill Type-A motorized wheelchair. Read More
Although computer-controlled artificial legs have been around for a few years now, they generally still feature an ankle joint that only allows the foot to tilt along a toe-up/toe-down axis. That's fine for walking in a straight line, but what happens when users want to turn a corner, or walk over uneven terrain? Well, in some cases, they end up falling down. That's why researchers at Michigan Technological University are now developing a microprocessor-controlled leg with an ankle that also lets the foot roll from side to side. Read More

A total of 20 well-known architects and designers, including Zaha Hadid, Guy Holloway, and FAT Architecture, were recently tasked with producing a unique dollhouse each for UK charity KIDS. Each of the diminutive houses is set upon a plinth measuring 75 x 75 cm (30 x 30 in), and is meant to sport a unique feature to make life easier for children with disabilities. Read More

While most of us take the lifting of a spoon to our mouth for granted, it can be a major challenge for people with Parkinson's Disease or other neurodegenerative conditions. It was with those people in mind that the engineers at San Francisco’s Lift Labs created the tremor-canceling Liftware Spoon. Read More
Although some wheelchair users could conceivably make use of devices like the GoPad, a researcher at Purdue University has developed a motorized wheelchair tray that looks to be a better option for giving wheelchair users convenient access to mobile devices. Employing a motorized arm, the “RoboDesk” can deploy or retract a tablet or lightweight laptop computer as needed. Read More
Unfortunately, there aren't many options available for the visually impaired when it comes to timepieces. While a number of talking watches and braille wristwatches with removable covers are already on the market, those often draw attention to a person's disability. That's why watchmaker Eone's debut timepiece, the Bradley, indicates the time with magnetic ball bearings that can be read subtly by touch. Read More
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