(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
To truly transform society, technology must solve problems for all groups of people.
The 11 teams that turned out at the Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center last weekend for the first session of the Abilities Hackathon demonstrated that existing tools can be used to help people with disabilities. The teams will have another month to work on projects, and return for another chance at prize money on May 25.
Here’s a look at a handful of projects:
Max Corbin explained his headband’s powers like this: “I either turn myself into a dolphin or a bat.”
Instead of actual swimming or flying creatures, he was referring to their ability to spot objects they can’t see. Using ultrasound sensors, eySonos can alert a blind person if something is moving into their general area. It’s the same principle as a Roomba robot.
With tasks like 3D printing the shells for the sensors and the getting the right speaker configuration so the alert wouldn’t stop someone from hearing, Corbin was happy to end the weekend with a working prototype. But he sees potential improvements, like adding more machine learning to identify what’s in the person’s field of view.
Along with patriotism, Nathan Kemp’s project was also notable for its eye toward style. Kemp made trim that adds a little flare to walkers with the goal of adding self-expression to the device. There are also LED lights.
Wheelchairs have blindspots, so Sam Mitchell, Tom Sawarynski and Dinesh Mahdevan looked to create a warning system to keep them from running into things. The trio came up with a project that attaches six sensors (two ultrasonic, four infrared) to a wheelchair. When an object approaches, an LED light activates, and there’s a beep.
You can order an Uber from a landline with this service.
Jake Tunney, Michael Petr and Luke Samuels created an interface using Twilio, Google Maps API and Uber’s API that allows a person to call Uber from a touch tone or rotary phone and provide the basics of their pickup location and ride needs. Cool.
Prosthetics are a platform with this project from Chang Hwan Choi and Sean Walker. The duo devised a system that functions as a series of modules for prosthetics, rather than the collection of socket types (and specialists for each) that people with replacement limbs currently have to navigate. Learning how to use prosthetics is also a big part of having them, so they created a training module as part of the set.
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