Some folks at the Ithaca College Tots on Bots project have the AoMS philosophy down pat: They’ve taken Wii Balance Boards and builds them into tiny robotic wheelchairs. When a very young child with physical disabilities sits in the chair and leans, the board senses their movement and steers the chair in the corresponding direction. Will this be expanded into wheelchair design for other ages, so that we’ll have Teens that Lean and Geezers on Wiizers?
We’re keeping an eye on the relevance to wheelchair users of the Roboscooper, which looks like a commercial variation of the iRobot Create modification for the Roomba. Roboscooper picks up objects and puts them in a “cargo bay” (unclear if this is a set area or can be specified by the user), or knocks them around (and out of the way?). We do like that it has a variety of clear spoken messages in response to a variety of situations, including encountering an object that’s too big or heavy, and that it can run either automatically or via remote control.
Here’s a cool hands-free wheelchair control setup, based off a Wii remote. It’s a high school science project for now, but has tremendous potential for being a low-cost commercial strategy that could significantly improve chair design.
As usual, a proposed “thought-controlled technology” will probably be run in practice via other physical capabilities. That doesn’t mean we’re not looking forward to some of the hands-free environmental control strategies being developed by Japanese researchers, including the ability to have heaters and air conditioners automatically respond to changes in an individual’s body temperature. Cognito, ergo summer?
Environmental control has always been a huge issue for people with mobility disabilities; if you can’t control the TV from afar, for example, you may be stuck watching bad reruns long after your program of interest has ended. Ability to integrate environmental control for multiple devices into a single, easy-to-control unit is always good. If that unit is a widely available and affordable mainstream device such as an iPhone or iPad, so much the better.
There are two observations from a New York Times report on the Las Vegas Market furniture show that have potential implications for people with mobility/dexterity disabilities. One is that the public at large is choosing to do more computing in the bedroom, which may well result in more design options and greater comfort becoming available to computer users who have to work from bed. The other is a promising solution to an often pressing problem: how do you get your partner to stop snoring if you don’t have enough gross motor function to nudge them? The answer is the button on a remote that temporarily inclines their side of the bed, tilting them so the cacophony goes away. If the button can be activated with minimal pressure, it could be a relationship saver.
We haven’t run across any RFID applications for awhile now, so we were happy to hear the rumors that an RFID reader may be built into the next-gen iPhone. The initial vision is that this would facilitate automatic connection to wireless networks–a laudable goal in itself–but what if it could also read other RFID tags to enable environmental control, information transfer, or…?!