New disability products and gadgets, usually ones that have just been launched at UK shows such as the Mobility Roadshow, Naidex or Kidz exhibitions. Often from entrepreneurs and designers who have personal experience of disability.
In March this year the Royal Academy of Engineering announced seven promising inventors currently based in UK universities who are researching and inventing in areas which could revolutionise industry and in some instances, daily life for people living with disabilities. The seven inventors have been pinpointed as offering something original and special that has real potential for advancing technology in the future.
The best minds from British universities have been discovered and their innovation has been showcased and is now supported by £85,000 funding each through the Royal Academy’s Enterprise Hub. Many of the ideas such as technology which should be able to work towards eliminating wrinkles and the creation of a new smart material will be interesting to see develop but there are some clear frontrunners when it comes to the disability sector and we’re looking at those more closely here.
Smart Glasses by Dr Stephen Hicks
Stephen Hicks’ Smart Glasses
Dr Stephen Hicks is a Research Fellow in Visual Prosthetics and he is working to produce revolutionary smart glasses designed to aid those living with visual impairments and blindness. Rather than focusing on sound based or touched based assistive technology Hicks’ research and prototype is a visual display which can be worn as glasses and is designed to improve the usefulness of the vision a person already possesses.
The glasses work by using the surroundings and detecting the 3D structure of nearby objects and then highlighting these on the visual display, allowing for recognition of things such as people, obstacles and faces. Hicks and his team are working on their prototype at present and hope to have a lightweight pair of glasses, market-ready towards the end of the year. This video explains a little more about what’s on offer:
Uroglide by Dr Nicola Irwin
Uroglide is the development of Dr Nicola Irwin and her team at Queen’s University Belfast. Uroglide is an innovative creation designed to reduce the pain and discomfort that comes with use of catheters. Whilst many people use catheters due to operations and other work, some people require catheterisation as part of their daily life. Many people live with poor bladder function and learn to self-catheterise but this can be painful and the risk of infection or further urethral problems is higher than medical professionals would like.
Dr Irwin and her team at Quen’s have developed a new and exciting coating technology which is cheaper than the current industry-standard coating for catheters and remains lubricated for longer, adhering strongly to the catheter at the same time. A lot of the pain in catheter removal at present is down to the dried out nature of the catheter itself but this new coating removes that problem completely, improving the patient’s experience and limiting pain. Uroglide has the true potential to save time and make a life changing difference to people who suffer from the pain of self-catheterisation using the current devices and their coatings.
Fingertip Computer Gaming by Dr Jack A. Cohen
A little more unusual and indirect than the other innovations, Dr Cohen’s development is a wireless device that detects and uses 3D movements in your fingertips to interact with a computer. Whilst it has been touted as a huge potential development for computer gaming and remotely operating machinery, it could also be used in AAC technology, as an alternative for people who are able to use their hands but perhaps are non-verbal.
The technology works by combining information from cameras and set wireless sensors and people are already suggesting it could even replace the traditional computer keyboard and mouse, allowing our hands to become the key controllers instead. Dr Cohen’s technology stands out because it is accurate and affordable and has the real potential to give virtual reality a chance to take to the mainstream. This video is an example of the technology in use:
These are just some of the many ideas our universities are coming up with and the more technology can be utilised to improve people’s lives, the more funding and focus it should be given.
“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!
Scroll to the bottom for the latest updates on Geco Hub and their Kickstarter campaign!
At Living with Disability we are constantly on the lookout for new innovations and inventions which could be used to make living with a disability easier. We support universal and design for all ideas that can be used freely or may be particularly useful for disabled people. Geco Hub is an innovative storage system solution which is currently looking for funding through Kickstarter. We are supporting Geco Hub and it’s creator Simon Lyons as we think it is a fantastic looking design .
What is Geco Hub? “A home for things without a home”
This video is the best place to start to give you an idea of what Geco Hub is and what it can offer:
It is the brainchild of Simon Lyons and his company Version 22 and they’re looking for £35,000 through Kickstarter to get the project off the ground. The Kickstarter is due to end on 24th April 2014.
Geco Hub up Close
A range of Geco Hub elements
Geco Hub is extremely easy to use and fit into your home in any way you see fit. It can be simply mounted to any surface using screws or adhesive pads and you can even fit it in places where drilling is impossible.
It can be assembled by hand in a few short minutes and the flexible components used to hold your items in place can be bought in a number of bright and innovative colours, one of the key things which makes them an ideal option for people living with visual impairments.
The Geco Hub system also benefits from being easily expandable. Each standard unit is 5×5 but other units of the same size can be added to create a larger storage space. Each unit uses its own elements to hold things in place with no need pins reducing the risk of stab injuries as well as damage to paper items.
This handy GIF shows off some of the different variations of Geco Hub you could try.
As the photo below shows the Geco Hub isn’t just for light, paper items though and it can hold a huge amount despite its seemingly small size:
The Geco Hub holds a range of heavy items
Geco Hub for Disabilities
The Geco Hub has a wide range of different uses for people living with disabilities. The bright design is ideal for people who have visual impairments but equally its wall positioning makes it easier for finding things which can be a problem when they’re laid flat on a table surface.
It’s also a great option for people who have joint pain or problems and find bending down difficult. Storing all important items at eye level means they can be reached for without needing to bend or stretch uncomfortably.
The Geco Hub is also an easy to position storage device which could be perfect for wheelchair users keeping all those key items within easy reach. Rather than standing eye level the Geco Hub could be easily placed at reach-level whilst seated.
British Design and Production
Geco Hub – Made in Britain
As supporters of British design above all we are pleased to see that Geco Hub is committed to using high quality suppliers in the UK which we definitely see as a hugely positive commitment for British industry.
The Geco Hub idea has been brewing away in the mind of its inventor since 2010. During Simon’s time at university and on graduation he has been dedicated almost solely to preparing the product to be ready for a launch on Kickstarter and we wish him every success with achieving the total need to fund the project.
Geco Hub interview on BBC Radio
Simon had a really interesting interview on the radio that gives some more background and information about the product.
The many benefits of this item means we simply had to support it. We hope it goes on to be as successful as the Sensory Stories project we backed last year. We hope our involvement may go some way in pushing Geco Hub closer to its target. So if you want to be part of this exciting project, dig deep and get on board and be one of the first people to own a Geco Hub!
Unfortunately the first attempt by Version 22 and Geco Hub on Kickstarter wasn’t a success but this hasn’t got them down – in fact they’re back for more and relaunching their Kickstarter attempt today: 29th July 2014!
The product has been updated, there have been changes and new developments but the core principles of the product remain the same, as they say themselves:
A lot has changed since the first time around but Geco Hub’s core benefits aren’t among them. Every step of the way along the path from the last campaign to this one I have taken the utmost care to ensure that Geco Hub is just as easy to assemble, install and use as it ever was and that only the best materials for the job are used. In fact, through doing all of this Geco Hub is now better than ever!
At Living with Disability we are still 100% behind Geco Hub and are very hopeful that this time they’ll receive everything they need to produce their versatile storage system. It is such a versatile development that can benefit people from people of all walks of life and we want it to be out there for sale for anyone who wants it! There’s even a new video showing off its perks:
We hope you get behind the campaign and to find out more visit their brand new Kickstarter campaign page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/version22design/geco-hub-stop-losing-in-style