Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Disability

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

New tech developed at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris enables people to write i...

Retaining the ability to communicate effectively can be one of the key challenges facing those who suffer a severe restriction in mobility. Conditions such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can reduce a persons capacity for voluntary movement to the eyes only, though even this is not always possible. When eye movement is possible however, it offers an opportunity for communication and expression, as previously highlighted by the Eyewriter project. New research conducted at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris may offer a further breakthrough in this area by enabling writing in cursive using only eye movements.  Read More

The US Army and the US National Football League are cooperating on a project to develop be...

The US Army is now working with the US National Football League (NFL) to develop ways to protect their respective members at risk of repeated incidents of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), traditionally called concussions. The first step of the program is to install sensors in the protective helmets so that the conditions leading to MTBI can be understood. Once understood, new helmet designs will provide more protection against such injuries.  Read More

This biologically accurate set of robotic legs comprises simplified versions of the human ...

Moving forwards on two legs is one thing, walking with a recognizably human gait is quite another. While most humanoids have mastered the former, the latter is beyond the reach of most bipedal robots (though some are doing a good job at it) ... and there is a good reason for that. Recreating the way humans walk takes recreating the entire walking apparatus, complete with the skeletal, muscular and neural systems. That’s exactly what a group of researchers from the University of Arizona have done, creating what is reportedly the most biologically accurate set of robotic legs to ever walk the planet.  Read More

A paralyzed woman has used the experimental BrainGate neural interface system to get herse...

Last April, for the first time since she became paralyzed 15 years ago, a 58 year-old woman was able to get herself a drink of coffee – she did so via a robotic arm, which was controlled by her thoughts. Although that rather astounding feat took place over a year ago, it was just made public today, in a report published in the journal Nature. The woman was a volunteer test subject, in a clinical trial of the experimental BrainGate neural interface system. Although still very much in development, the system could someday restore mobility to people who have suffered paralysis or limb loss.  Read More

The Turny Evo is a system that moves a vehicle's seat through the door, so disabled passen...

People with limited mobility face a challenge when getting into a conventional vehicle. Not only do they have to put aside their crutches or get out of their wheelchair, but they are also required to step up and across the vehicle’s door sill and swivel themselves sideways onto the seat. One option is to get a converted van, with a side- or rear-mounted ramp. Autoadapt, however, is now offering an alternative. The Swedish company’s Turny Evo system actually lifts the front driver or passenger seat out the door of the vehicle, turns it toward the user, and lowers it down. Once the user has seated themselves, the seat and passenger are then pulled back inside, and driving can commence.  Read More

An experimental new gesture-to-voice synthesizer could allow people without the power of s...

Whether it’s people who can’t speak, or musicians looking for a new way of expressing themselves, both may end up benefiting from an experimental new gesture-to-voice synthesizer. The system was created at the University of British Columbia, by a team led by professor of electrical and computer engineering Sidney Fels. Users just put on a pair of sensor-equipped gloves, then move their hands in the air – based on those hand movements, the synthesizer is able to create audible speech.  Read More

A survivor of the 7/7 London bombings has created a smartphone app that makes it easier fo...

How do you figure out how to pilot a wheelchair around your city? Around 10 percent or more of the population live with a disability, so chances are that you, or someone you know, has this problem. You can't be certain if wheelchair access is available unless you laboriously phone ahead to inquire for every route and every destination. Some web information is available, but knowing where to find it and what search strings to use can be a real challenge. Enter the Ldn Access smartphone app, that helps people with disabilities easily find where there are step-free access ramps, usable toilet facilities, and other services for the disabled.  Read More

The Nike Sole is an attachment designed for use with Ossur's Flex-Run carbon fiber running...

By now, probably just about everyone has seen amazing footage of single- or double-amputee runners, using Össur's Flex-Run carbon fiber running blades. The springy substitutes for legs allow their users to run so fast and naturally, that there is currently a debate over whether or not it would be fair to allow athletes using them to compete against non-amputees. Carbon fiber isn't exactly known for its grippy qualities, however, so Nike has been working with one-legged triathlete Sarah Reinertsen, to create the equivalent of a shoe that could be used with the blades. The result is the Nike Sole.  Read More

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