Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Disability

The research may point to new avenues in developing aids for the blind (Photo: Shutterstoc...

In an effort to enable blind people to navigate their surroundings more safely and effectively, researchers at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science have drawn inspiration from an unexpected source: rat whiskers.  Read More

The handSteady is a cup with a rotatable handle, for people with motor difficulties

Chris Peacock may not have reinvented the wheel, but he’s definitely reinvented the cup. The British inventor has created handSteady, an ergonomic cup to help people with health conditions (such as tremor, joint pain and Parkinson’s disease) to have their drinks without undergoing a nerve-wracking, socially-awkward challenge.  Read More

Test subject Brian Shaffer uses the prototype exoskeleton

For people who are unable to walk under their own power, exoskeletons offer what is perhaps the next-best thing. Essentially “wearable robots,” the devices not only let their users stand, but they also move their legs for them, allowing them to walk. While groups such as Berkeley Bionics, NASA, Rex Bionics, and ReWalk are all working on systems, Nashville’s Vanderbilt University has just announced the development of its own exoskeleton. It is claimed to offer some important advantages over its competitors.  Read More

The prototype prosthetic finger

When South African craftsman Richard Van As lost most of the fingers from his right hand in an industrial accident, he decided to try and create a prosthetic finger to regain some of his lost mobility. In order to bring this about, Richard recruited the help of Washington State native Ivan Owen, after being impressed with the latter's mechanical hand prop which he had posted on YouTube. The result could be a boon to amputees everywhere.  Read More

In addition to offering the convenience of typing one-handed, Gauntlet could enable people...

The QWERTY computer keyboard has proved to be a versatile design over the years, and whether you’re typing on an iPhone screen, or the chiclet keys prevalent on modern laptops, the experience is largely the same. However, typical keyboards aren’t generally all that easy to use one-handed or while walking, for example. For those kind of situations you may be better served with a glove called Gauntlet, which features a built-in one handed keyboard.  Read More

Jamboxx is a harmonica-like breath-driven digital instrument that can be played and contro...

Digital wind controllers like the Morrison Digital Trumpet give players the power to go beyond mere instrument clones and make virtually any instrument or sound available to the musician. More recently, Ashanti's Beatjazz Hands combined breath, pressure and motion sensors to bring gestures into the equation and free him from the confines of a computer screen. The problem in using such systems for folks with limited cognitive abilities or physical disability is that they can't effectively be used hands-free. A skiing accident in the 1980s left Dave Whalen a quadriplegic, and his burning desire to continue making music has led to the development of Jamboxx, a harmonica-like digital instrument that can be played and controlled using just the head.  Read More

The Chiba Institute of Technology robotic wheelchair in action

Making a wheelchair that can deal with steps and other obstacles has puzzled engineers for decades, with everything from tank treads to spokes tried and found not quite practical. Now a team of engineers from the Chiba Institute of Technology, led by associate professor Shuro Nakajima, have applied a bit of lateral thinking. They have developed a robotic wheelchair that isn't sure what it is. Normally, it operates on wheels like a conventional wheelchair, but when it meets an obstacle, the wheels turn into legs.  Read More

OpenDyslexic features a weighted bottom, which is intended to lend 'gravity' to every lett...

Developer Abelardo Gonzalez has created an open-source font designed to help people with dyslexia read more easily. Dubbed OpenDyslexic, the font is currently available as a free download, in the form of a Safari and Chrome extension, a bookmarklet, and a free iOS web-browsing app. OpenDyslexic has also been incorporated into several third-party apps, including popular read-it-later service Instapaper.  Read More

Murata Manufacturing's KeePace, a walk-assist device for the elderly or disabled, stands n...

Murata Manufacturing, a Japanese electronics company, has developed a walker called KeePace that stays upright on its own. The walker uses the same sensors famously demonstrated by the company's self-balancing robots which ride bicycles and unicycles without falling over.  Read More

Scientists have cracked the code that the brain uses to vocalize vowels (Image: Shuttersto...

Recently, scientists unlocked the code used by neurons in the retina for sending visual data to the brain. This allowed them to create a device that restored almost-normal vision to blind mice. Now, another group of scientists has announced that they have determined the brain’s code for pronouncing vowels, and they believe that their discovery could lead to machines that speak for people who are physically unable to do so.  Read More

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