“Would you like a cup of tea?” – Nao, the frst robot with emotions
Every January the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is a chance for the latest innovations in technology and gadgetry to be displayed. This year there were many highlights but more than ever before robots came into the limelight. Many companies have developed and honed their robotic developments into fully fledged prototypes and products ready for sale and simply waiting to be installed into homes around the globe. The robots developed for 2015 are a long way from the science fiction anthropomorphic droids from films and TV shows but they’re getting there and they’re certainly a long way from the old classroom Roamer robot too.
Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons
With so many fantastic innovations we thought it’d be worth looking at them from the perspective of health and social care and how they may be able to be used by disabled people for a range of purposes. Though none of the robots were that all-in-one house robot ready to serve and follow direct instructions, many of them can have a huge impact on daily life and make a different to the independence and capabilities of individuals with a wide range of disabilities. Below is a closer look at some of the key finds at CES 2015.
Fure-I Home Robot
The highlight of CES 2015 and one of the ones to watch, despite its high price, was the exceptional Furo-I Home, developed by South Korean company Futurebot. In the shape of a cone and covered with sensors, Furo-I Home is topped with a tablet which displays a friendly droid-like face, ready to assist with your daily requirements.
Furo-I Home can be programmed to take control of internet-controlled devices in your home, meaning it can be used to switch lights on, heating on, music or television and it can also be used to provide reminders and guidance for children, elderly people and those who may need prompts to remember things such as their medication or to eat at set mealtimes. It’s the kind of development which could help individuals who sometimes require support workers as it can provide key reminders and also is a direct line to family and friends, as the droid can send messages asking for help or assistance. Expensive at £660 when it comes to market, it probably isn’t the droid for everyone but is a true example of how far robotics have come.
The Branto Ball has been described as a cheaper alternative to the Furo-I Home and is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign hoping to ensure as many people as possible can enjoy all the benefits of their own Branto Ball. This smart little robotic ball is going to retail at around $399.
The Branto Ball is a small sphere-like robot which can be used to carry out a wide range of household tasks from the comfort of your smartphone, with remote access, whether you’re home or not. It can do anything from switching on the television, setting the lights and the heating and it can also be used a remote camera or monitor, to watch over children, pets and more.
The fact that it turns your smartphone into a remote means it makes settling down for the evening easier, especially for individuals who may live with chronic pain or mobility issues, as the additional strength or effort needed to switch off the heating, television and lights can be carried out with a single touch. This video explains more about the Branto Ball:
Budgee Bot is an extremely clever and extremely useful bot which could be used by many people living with a range of different conditions and disabilities. It’s designed to help ensure people who have difficulty with lifting heavy loads to have a robot companion to do it for them. It works through the owner wearing a transmitter and this connects to the robot, ensuring that it followers the owner around – meaning anything you need to hand can be carried with ease, without the stress of lifting and pulling.
This video introduces the Budgee Bot in more depth:
Specific Task Robots
As well as robots which can be used for a wide range of tasks, CES 2015 saw many single specific task robots on display, making many individual tasks easier to carry out and in some cases more enjoyable. Here is a closer look at some of those innovative inventions.
Droplet Robotic Sprinkler
Droplet Robotic Sprinkler
We have talked many times about the garden aids available for disabled people and this is one seriously high tech addition for green-fingered growers. The Droplet Robotic Sprinkler has a modern, rounded design and works through a Wi-Fi connection which can be set to propel different amounts of water to different plants in the garden. Different plants needing different water levels can be accurately targeted and weather data can also be taken into account to delay watering when it isn’t required. Droplet allows you to enjoy your garden at leisure whilst limiting the labour that comes with it.
A niche robot which is ideal for summer parties and barbecues. If you regularly have the barbecue fired up in the summer months then the Grillbot will save you the hassle of all the cleaning afterwards. Using a specialised algorithm Grillbot cleans the barbecue and gets it back to its best, ready for your next use.
iRobot were back at CES this year but rather than showing off their fantastic floor cleaning robots, including the Roombaand Scooba, they were pushing forward the idea of drones in the home, with hints at the development of a robot butler! We still really rate the robot vacuum cleaners and believe they’re a true development in the right direction for independence in the home.
A great creation for anybody living with allergies or breathing difficulties, the Atomobot is a mobile air purification system which roams around the home and hunts out airborne dust and odours and then removes them. A great way of keeping the home fresh but also a fantastic development for anyone who struggles with household allergies.
The All-In-One House Bot
The crowning glory of CES 2015 came from Meccano and the announcement of the Meccanoid. Marketed as a robot which can be built and programmed by children the genuine capabilities of Meccanoid are fascinating. It can be programmed to move in certain ways, playback voices and though it’s a long way from that original home bot who can be left cleaning the house and caring for the kids, just watching this video will show you a great example of what Meccanoid can do:
JustoCat: Robot Cats for Dementia Therapy
JustoCat provides therapy for people with dementia
JustoCat is another modern innovation which has become a huge sensation and has been hailed as a truly effective and valuable therapy tool for people living with dementia and related conditions. JustoCat has been developed by academics in Sweden and has the prime purpose of providing comfort, peace and relaxation to people with dementia, as well as a sense of company to prevent or at least lessen loneliness. JustoCat purrs and meows just like a regular cat but at £1000 or thereabouts to buy, this cat is clearly a medical device and not simply a toy.
The JustoCat has been developed in partnership by robotics experts at the Robotdalen company and healthcare researchers and academics at Mälardalen University. The JustoCat has been released across Europe and the team behind the invention believe it is good enough to be prescribed by doctors to many people living with dementic and related conditions. The simple functions of JustoCat are to mimic the behaviour of a live cat but with the benefit of washable, removable fur so it’s completely safe and hygenic in care environments and institutions.
JustoCat can help decrease loneliness and promote interaction
The team behind the JustoCat believe its simple function can promote interaction and communication in people who may struggle otherwise due to their condition and their research and tests back up this assertion. As well as being a valuable tool for people living with dementia, the experts also believe that JustoCat can provide be used as complimentary therapy for people with learning disabilities and its simply purpose is to provide an improvement in psychological, social and physical well-being.
It may look like a toy but JustoCat is far from it, with hopes that it will be available in the UK soon too. The benefits for people living with dementia, a condition which is significantly on the rise, have been studied and JustoCat can make a real difference – it just simply needs to be made available. The latest figures from the Alzheimer’s Society predict that by the end of this year, over 850,000 people will be living with a form of dementia so more focus on technology which can help is an absolute must. If JustoCat makes a difference then it should be made available. This video shows exactly how it works:
Robots and Social Care
It still seems to be in a very distant future that we can trust robots to be responsible wholly or even partially for social care but there are so many helpful and useful developments that disabled people are gaining access to things, even in their own homes, which may have been difficult before. Little things like the self-watering garden and the one-switch for all via our smartphones can take the stress out of daily life so significantly that they are something to truly applaud. Perhaps alongside telecare services similar to skype or facetime helping to fill the gap with the human interactive side of care.
With the innovations launched at CES 2015 it’ll be exciting to see what happens in 2016!
Google Glass is a game changing technology that we will look back to and wonder how we did without it, like we do with mobile phones and WiFi!
New developments design for mainstream usage are in fact becoming more inclusive and giving more options for people living with disabilities. Google Glass is one such piece of equipment.
What is Google Glass?
Google Glass is a wearable computer which comes with an optical head-mounted display which is working towards the full development of a ubiquitous computer. Google Glass is being developed as part of the larger Project Glass research and development project. It takes smartphone technology and makes it even more accessible. It displays information just like a smartphone in a hands free format which allows for communication with the internet through natural voice commands.
The Google Glass
Google Glass is fitted with a touchpad on its side and it allows users to control it by swiping thorough its interface on the screen. The interface is much like the standard timeline we’ve come to be familiar with and this swiping motion is the only physical action needed to operate the Glass.
Voice actions are the main way of controlling the device and activating the Glass is as simple as tilting the head upwards (to approximately 30° or a preferred angle that can be altered) or tap the touchpad and say ‘OK Glass.’ Once the Glass is activated only voice actions are required and you can access the range of different facilities offered by the product. Everything from ‘Send a message to Mum’ to ‘get directions to the nearest ATM’ can be found. Search results will be filtered and then read back to the user so they can choose the most fitting one.
Google use innovative bond conduction through a transducer in the product which renders the sound virtually inaudible to others around you, allowing for a private yet interactive computing experience.
The Google Glass headset can be simply connected to your smartphone and the display is a small information screen which hovers in front of one eye. Experts in the field are describing this as the first development in what will be the next big trend – wearable technology. Rather than slipping your smartphone into your pocket you could find you’re utilising glasses, watches and other wearable devices in the near future. Prospective analytics suggest that wearable tech has the potential to be big business with sales projections for the Glass reaching 9.6 million by the end of 2016.
Google Glass for Disability
For disabled people living Google Glass presents an even bigger opportunity. An opportunity to make their environment more accessible through information. The Glass is much more than a new toy, it can be life affirming or even life changing. Technologists suggest that speech recognition is reaching new levels of precision. They’re actually working towards profoundly deaf people being able to see real-time transcripts of what friends are saying to them in the Glass’ prism. It really could revolutionise communication for many.
Equally the Glass could also be extremely useful for people with visual impairments – with suggestions that it may be possible to take walking directions from the Glass further opening up the world for them.
Below we’re looking at two of the early Google Glass adopters, both of whom are disabled and have had their stories well publicised. How the Glass has helped their lives is truly inspirational and is a positive example of how they can be instrumental for other people living with disabilities in the future.
Tammie Lou Van Sant
Tammie Lou Van Sant -Google Glass User
Tammie Lou Van Sant was a keen photographer before a car accident left her living with permanent paralysis. The Google Glass headset has given Van Sant the chance to point and shoot again as she can simply give voice commands. It has allowed her to once again enjoy one of her favourite past times as well as its other functionalities being highly useful such as answering her own phone calls, replying to texts and making small, solo trips out thanks to Google Maps.
Alex Blaszczuk is another individual living with permanent paralysis. She submitted her story to the #ifihadaglass competition and was awarded her glass this way. She highlighted how the glass would help her to ‘thrive with physical limitations’. On receiving her Glass she was able to find a new form of self-expression and the video below shows exactly how much of a positive impact it has had upon her life.
Getting Google Glass
Google Glass doesn’t have an official launch date although recent queries to Google on November 8th suggest it may be out by early 2014. There are no official announcements now so rather than thinking about when you’ll get your own it may be worth beginning to save up!
Google Glass has the potential to revolutionise the lives of millions of disabled people. Some may be able to recapture hobbies and interests that they remember before the effects of an accidents whilst others may enjoy completely new experiences, that they have never had the opportunity to participate in.
Google Glass for Disability Updates
We intend to update this post with people’s personal experiences and applications of the Glass as they develop. Please leave a comment if you have something for us to add.
This blog is in two parts – the first part is a guest post by trained audiologist Melanie Lewis, the second part is some suggestions of our own:
Who does hearing loss affect?
Hearing impairment affects over 9 million individuals in the UK (source: RNID 2005 survey). The two most common reasons contributing to diminished hearing are age related (though slightly misleading as affects start in a person’s 40’s) and noise induced. In both cases, the level of hearing will not improve naturally and individuals depend on a growing number of sophisticated devices designed to overcome the hearing impairment using modern technology.
Hearing Loss Tech Gadget Ideas
What Goes Wrong Leading To Hearing Loss:
There are a number of organs and processes that must work to their potential in order for us to hear, see or smell. In the case of hearing, sound needs to be captured, then funneled to the brain where it is made into ‘tangible’ information that we can comprehend. Our inner ear includes tiny hair cells that are only visible under a microscope. These cells capture waves in the air (which we call ‘sound’) that are funneled via the hearing nerve to the brain. As the body matures, the quality and quantity of the hair cells is reduced leading to a challenging inability to hear certain sound frequencies. The hair cells can also become damaged (often more easily than people might believe) through exposure to harmful noise leading to noise induced hearing loss. The body is unable to repair or regrow the tiny hair cells so any management of hearing disability must depend on technological advances in science.
Digital Hearing Aids:
Today’s digital hearing aids are lighter, small and slimmer than ever before.
These digital amplification aids are available at no cost from the NHS and from private service providers offering digital hearing aids. Leading brands include Oticon, Phonak, Resound, Siemens, Starkey and Widex. The device is housed in a small lightweight plastic structure and sits inside or outside the wearer’s ear. It works by capturing waves in the air using a sensitive microphone that are then amplified using a powerful microchip. The amplified sound is transmitted directly into the ear using the receiver.
Differentiating factors between the various brands of digital hearing aids include size (with ‘discreet’ sizes normally commanding higher prices), wireless connection, Bluetooth connectivity and complexity of sound processing algorithms. While NHS hearing aids are free, model choice is limited and a waiting list may apply.
Amplified cordless phones offer high quality, loud, distortion-free sound. They also offer a hands-free mode.
These are desk, cordless and mobile phones that have been specifically tailored for the hard of hearing. Leading brands include Doro, Geemarc and Amplicomms. The devices differ from normal phones in that they can amplify the ringer level often 10 times louder than that of a normal phone and amplify the voice of the caller to a suitable level. Differentiating factors between the various phones include caller voice amplification level, ringer volume in dB (can reach 60dB vs. 4 to 6dB on normal phones), telecoil compatibly to digital hearing aids, visual indicators and type of buttons (backlit, big button etc). Amplified phones are not usually available from the NHS, but can be bought at a reasonable price.
An amplified doorbell can help you hear when someone is at the door. Click the image for more information.
These aids are designed to attract the user’s attention to something that may have become inaudible and include amplified alarm clocks and amplified doorbells. They differ from normal alerting aids in their level of amplification that can reach 95dB and most importantly in the suite of other sensory triggers they offer. Devices will include visual indicators and often vibration pads that can be placed for example below the user’s pillow. Certainly in the case of most amplified doorbells, they are wireless so can be carried from room to room when the user moves around the home. Leading brands include Sonic Alert, Geemarc and Amplicomms and again, these are not usually available from the NHS.
In the case of profound hearing impairment and when ALDs (assistive listening devices featured above) are less effective, individuals will often supplement the management of their hearing loss with lip reading and British Sign Language.
If you or someone you know is concerned about their hearing ability, a visit to a local hearing centre is recommended. We hope you found this information of help.
Melanie Lewis is a trained hearing aid audiologist. She works for hearing direct, the UK’s biggest supplier deaf accessories from hearing aid batteries to personal amplification aids.
Other Hearing Aid Technology and Gadgetry
We’ve had a look around the market to find some other handy and innovative gadgets that may help if you suffer from hearing loss.
Our first interesting find was brought to our attention by a fellow Twitter user:
Apparently all digital wireless phones must now be hearing-aid compatible (HAC) and the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 feature built-in HAC making them easy to connect hearing aids to. The iPhone 5 has a HAC rating of M3, T4. The numbers next to each letter represent the compatibility ratings on a scale of 1 to 4.
The M rating is based on reduced radio-frequency interference that enables acoustic coupling with hearing aids that do not operate in telecoil mode.
The T rating is for inductive coupling with hearing aids operating in telecoil mode.
Vibrating Reminder Watches
Pivotell Vibrate Mini Reminder Watch in Purple Floral
There are quite a few vibrating reminder watches available on the market, in almost every colour and style you can think of. These watches are ideal for keeping track of daily tasks such as medication intervals, gym work outs or even for use when home cooking. This Pivotell Reminder Watch emits a discreet vibration that will alert the user but will not disturb those around them. You set set up to 12 different alarms and the vibration lasts for 5 seconds each time.
Vibrating and Light-Up Alarm Clocks
This funky looking alarm clock would be great for teenagers or young people. The stylish black finish and bright LED
The Wake ‘n’ Shake alarm includes a vibration pad and can also be connect to your phone line.
screen would look great in a kid’s bedroom or in a student den! What makes the Wake ‘n’ Shake extraordinary is the vibrating pad that is attached to the clock.
By placing the pad under your pillow or next to you, the pad will vibrate when it’s time to get up – or for any other reason you decide to set the alarm. Not only this, but the Wake ‘n’ Shake can be connected directly to your home phone line, meaning you can be notified when somebody is ringing you.
Other useful features of the Wake ‘n’ Shake include a large, easy to read LED display, and the ability to also set the clock to alert you with a strobe light or an extra-loud 95dB alarm sound.
This handy-sized vibrating alarm can be taken with you for travel or used at home.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a little more subtle than the Wake ‘n’ Shake, we’ve also found the Lifemax 331 Under Pillow Vibration Alarm Clock. This handy devise is ideal for travel or at home, and simply slips under your pillow. The vibration is strong enough to wake you, but also perfect if you need to wake without waking anybody else in the house. The compact, lightweight design means you can take it anywhere with you, and as it runs on batteries there’s no need to find a power source.
These trendy headphones can provide sound up to 120dB.
Wireless Amplified Headphones
For those who love their music or want to amplify their TV or radio, these futuristic-looking headphones are the ideal solution. The Amplicomms TV150 Amplified Headset can wirelessly transmit stereo sound from almost any device you have around the home. Whether it be TV, DVD or MP3, this ergonomically designed headset fits snuggly in the ears and can transmit sound up to a massive 120dB. The powerful transmitter allows a range of up to 10 meters allowing you to freely move around the home, and they also include a built-in automatic volume control, which stops increases in noise such as TV adverts, from being too loud.
High-Tech Helpers: EnuSens Toilet Training Alarm System
Helping your child understand toilet training
Having an older child who suffers from bladder weakness and needs more support in their toilet training can be a very testing and difficult thing to live with. However, this new product, exhibited at Naidex’s New Product Showcase has been designed with education and sensitivity in mind. EnuSens is an enurises monitor which has education and support as its main goals, helping to guide children into waking up when nature calls without having to be attached to a noisy buzzer or rely on uncomfortable training underwear, that never ever feels good. This new toilet training alarm system is designed to work on your child’s confidence, understanding their own body and their self-esteem.
Working with your child to understand their body
High Tech sensors make this system discrete and reliable for detecting enuresis
EnuSensTM can be used to help educate children to wake up and use the bathroom. Some children can respond faster than others to this type of training, depending on age and other various factors. What’s more this product also helps children understand how their body works, if they have the capacity to do and it also can be used in a number of healthcare settings. Receiving positive feedback from the Convention has seen the product easily available online and the soft cotton sensor means all chances of being uncomfortable can be eliminated. What’s more, you could use these product in conjunction with Brolly Sheets or the Uriwell range to create an even less clinical atmosphere.
Used by Adults
This product can also be used by adults, either in bed or perhaps whilst out and about in a wheelchair. The hardwearing sensor allows for comfort as well as easy positioning in the correct position in the chair and if you have a support team or carers, it allows them to respond immediately to any accidents or leakage. Even better, although there is an alarm option this can be silenced so there is no need to feel undignified or embarrassed by any little accidents and they can be handled safely without any need for upset.
If you’re interested in this product, click in the below box:
DRI Sleeper Bed Wetting Alarm
Wet-Stop3 Bedwetting Alarm-Green
TensCare Dry Night Trainer Bed Wetting Alarm
Rodger Wireless Bedwetting Enuresis Alarm – NEW 2012 Model
Portable and personal – ideal for regular monitoring
Omron M2 Blood Pressure Monitor
A huge range of conditions and disabilities require you to perform checks and manage elements of your own health care plan and including amongst the things you may have to check includes your own blood pressure. A basic upper arm blood pressure monitor is a really valuable item to have in your home because it allows you to keep a record of your own condition and of course, recognise symptoms if you’re at risk of anything potentially dangerous or life threatening. One of the best and most affordable models on the market comes from Omron and it’s designed with easy of use and accessibility in mind.
Omron M2 – Basic Blood Pressure Monitor
Before looking at this great little piece of kit in detail, watch this quick video to see exactly how to use your new product:
As the video shows, this product can comfortably and easily record your blood pressure and benefits from some great features to ensure ease of use. The most prominent and popular feature with customers is the easy to read large screen which allows for quick reading and recording. Another important feature is the one button activation which makes the whole process very straightforward and removes the need to pump up the band as you may find in your doctor’s surgery and could prove quite difficult if you live alone.
What do the customers think?
This product has received hundreds of positive reports in its favour. Customers describe it as a breeze to use, ideal for regular usage and praise how the instruction manual makes understanding and getting used to the features even simpler. The product has been bought by hundreds of people who were concerned about their blood pressure after doctor’s and hospital appointments and now feel relieved by tracking their own results and able to contact the right healthcare professional if they didn’t follow the right pattern. What’s more, it’s extremely affordable.
To purchase your own, click in the box below:
Omron M2 Basic Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor
Omron M10-IT Automatic Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor Dual Size
EKS 301 Vision Blood Pressure Monitor
Finger Pulse Oximeter – %SpO2 (Blood Oxygen Saturation) & Heart Rate Monitor with Instructions, Lanyard & Carry Case (in
The advancement of technology continues to speed off at an alarming rate and as each new product is developed, there are new ways that people living with disabilities can gain independence and fulfilment from their lives with less support from others. Now, the development of robotics has been seen more in sci-fi movies and books but it’s not longer a thing of the past, innovative robot vacuum cleaners have been developed and are available for general purchase.
Robot vacuum cleaners are a development which could significantly help those living with disabilities who find the general vacuum cleaner too heavy, too difficult to grip or have problems with bending and stretching. Rather than relying on support from carers or family, a robot vacuum cleaner can do the job for you on its own.
Samsung vs iRobot
There are two main brands of robot vacuum cleaner on the market and both have their advantages and disadvantages. This video shows in depth which model benefits from which qualities and also their strengths and weaknesses:
As the video shows the iRobot Roomba is the original design, complete with all the features you think you may need in a robot vac but then along comes the Samsung NaviBot.
Now, the Navibot seems to be a newer, more technically advanced and highly developed model but on testing, it’s possible to see how both products have their strengths and how according to CNET the original design is much stronger than the new, apparently more technically advanced development.
The Navibot is fantastic for thorough and in depth cleaning and it’s vision mapping technology means it knows where it’s already been and won’t spin in circles but it does struggle with obstacles. The Roomba may take a little more time to get things done and may keep going over the same spot but the job will get done and the original technology proves to be superior in most instances.
If you’re interested in finding out more about either product, click in the boxes below:
There are a huge range of techy products which have been developed to make life easier for people from all walks of life, not necessarily with those with disabilities in mind. The Breville Hot Cup is one of these great innovations.
The Breville Hot Cup is an ingenious invention which allows you to boil and dispense hot water with the touch of a button. It is a one touch kettle that you fill with water and it dispenses hot water one cup at a time. This means you can wave goodbye to that kettle tipper wire thing and have something smart and modern on the work top!
Good bye Kettle Tipper!
There’s no need for lifting, pouring or any of the awkward and potentially risky activities involved in making a good old cuppa. It’s a great development for those who have dexterity issues or problems with fine motor skills and as this tweeter puts it, there’s no longer any need to worry about pouring boiling water on yourself:
I am way too excited by my new kettle. No more worrying about pouring boiling water over myself. Eco conscious too. http://t.co/vqdwnUzG
The Breville Hot Cup can make that cuppa of yours risk-free and it also has many other great features. If you choose the model with variable dispense, you can vary the size of the cup you use, meaning you can enjoy a big steamy cup of coffee in the morning and then reduce your intake throughout the day as it can’t hurt to reduce your caffeine intake. It works extremely quickly, boiling in less than a minute and you’ll be absolutely stoked with your new purchase.
Save money on boiling a kettle
We have used one for over two years and they pay for themselves quickly in the electricity that they save. As you only boil as much as you need it really saves the ££££s over time. The filters are expensive though, but we have found that it works just as well without one and have been using ours for 18months without needing to descale it. Obviously this will vary depending on where you live.
This video shows a demo of the Hot Cup in action:
The Innovative Breville Hot Cup
As you can see, it’s a really clever piece of kit which could make life so much easier and avoid the risk of dangerous burns. In addition to ease of use, the Breville Hot Cup is extremely easy to maintain with a built-in limescale filter and it comes with a drip tray as standard so you can avoid spills on your counter tops.
The Breville Hot Cup is ideal for your morning coffee, your afternoon tea and your bed time cocoa.
About this blog
We like to find new gadgets or uses of existing products that help people with disabilities. We don't like clinical or stigmatising looking ugly products that make your home look like a hospital ward!
Please leave a comment if you would like to submit a review or suggest a product. You can always talk to us on twitter @lwdisability or facebook. We love to be offered guest posts and happily include your bio with blog link or for a chosen cause or charity.
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