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Disability

— Health & Wellbeing

Soft pneumatic exoskeleton could be perfect for use in rehab

We've recently been hearing a lot about how exoskeletons can be used in rehabilitation, guiding patients' disabled limbs through a normal range of motion in order to develop muscle memory. The problem is, most exoskeletons are rigid, limiting their degrees of freedom to less than those of the body part they're moving. A team of scientists are looking at changing that, with a partial "soft exoskeleton" that replicates the body's own muscles, tendons and ligaments. Read More
— Science

Siemens' smart C-Walker guides the cognitively impaired

The C-Walker is a high-tech walking device that aims to safely guide people with cognitive impairments through public spaces like airports and shopping centers, reducing their reliance on visual signboards and avoiding obstacles in their way. Using onboard sensors, this "cognitive navigation prosthesis" monitors its environment in real time to figure out a path that poses little risk, actively re-planning it when it encounters problems like wet floors, or people dashing about. Aside from aiding senior citizens, the technology is expected to come in handy in factory settings, helping workers avoid danger zones and accidental collisions with machines. Read More
— Health & Wellbeing

Algorithm could drastically improve the performance of hearing aids

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
— Science

Monkeys control arms of avatar using their mind

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
— Good Thinking

Whill Type-A takes a unique approach to the motorized wheelchair

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
— Health & Wellbeing

Computer-controlled artificial leg offers a more natural gait

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
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