Archive for the ‘Design for Disability’ Category

Ancient toe prosthetic

Archeologists discovered a 3000 years old prosthetics of a big toe. The prosthetic is wooden and skillfully carved to resemble anatomic details of the toe including the toe nail. It seems to have been dyed, perhaps to match the user’s skin color. The user could attach the prosthetic to the foot via an adjustable leather band. The leather band is flexible to enable the prosthetic to follow the foot’s movement, but also to be durable.


University of Basel

Science Daily

Categories: Design for Disability

Lego for customized design of a prosthetic arm

In autumn last year I wrote about the opportunity to print customized prosthetic arms with a 3D printer (see here). Now the concept is pushed one step forward by Lego. In its research lab they developed the idea to give the prosthetic a basic component which is stuck to the existing part of the arm, a rechargeable battery unit and a customizable part. It can be customized with different Lego sets and even programmed with e.g. Lego Mindstorms.

The kid in the video looks really happy. This idea suits to the concept proposed by Graham Pullin that a disability is not necessarily to be a limitation (see in the literature section for his book “Design meets disability”). With our technology now we can transform it into an advantage that a normal person does not have, but in this case offers a positive experience for both. The Lego concept may also contributes to a playful way of learning basic programming and technology skills, for the disabled child and his/her friends.

Source: wired magazine

Translator for sign language

November 9, 2014 Leave a comment

Currently there is a campaign running at Indiegogo collecting money for a tablet with a sign language translation system to support deaf people. Motionsavvy is the startup company (link below). The tablet has a camera detecting sign language and the software translates sign language into speech and into text. On the tablet’s display the user is sees the own hand movements to help them to communicate. The system is described as intelligent with the ability to learn the users specific style of sign language.

The gesture recognition is said to be based on Leap Motion. As applicable for all systems relying on camera information, it still is a challenge for gesture recognition systems to work under different lighting conditions. A supporting point for the system is that camera technology in phones did already improve greatly in the last years. As I’m not an expert in that technology nor do I know sign language I can’t tell for sure about other challenges. I found some concerning grammar and meaning. However, the team of developers consists of passionate deaf people Who else than the users themselves would develop a system tailored to their needs.

According to the website the system is based on the American Sign Language (ASL). It would be great if different sign language alphabets could be just downloaded and installed on the device, like language packages on a PC. They have an eye on it as future development. The next development step is already in focus for team Motionsavvy. They want to integrate the system into mobile phones. A tablet is a good start to integrate the system into an everyday object. However, tablets are not so handy to be taken everywhere outside because of their size, but with a mobile phone the users would have a real good option to take it wherever they are – like a child to the playground.

Here is the link, have a look yourself:

Or to the project’s homepage directly:


Soundhawk – hearing aid, but do not call it this way

Soundhawk is a device which helps to listen to a conversation in environments with high background noise. The device consists of an earpiece, a smart phone app (iOS and Android) and a microphone. The earpiece is connected with a smart phone app which helps to adjust its settings, the filtered heights and depth or sound volume. The settings storable as profiles, e.g. for specific situations like a visit in a restaurant and another for a football match. It claims to work in a similar way like human ears do – reducing the background noise and enhancing the voice you want to hear. Of course the device does not know what you want to hear, but that is what you adjust in the app’s settings. For worst cases there is a microphone in the set. Attach it to your conversation partner and within distance of 10 meter their voice will be submitted. The connection of the microphone works via bluetooth. So there is no need to worry about cabling.

The battery is said to last 8 hours. After that it can be charged in the included charging device.

It is not called a hearing aid, e.g. as hearing aids in the U.S. need to be prescribed by a doctor. Instead the device’s purpose is seen to support hearing specifically in situations with high background noise and not as a therapy. So Soundhawk seems to go only in one ear.

Source: Zeit (German newspaper),

Website of the supplier: Soundhawk

So far I found this (test) user experiences:

The next web user experience

The wire user experience (including a good descriptions of the user’s test settings)
The endgadget user experience


Bionic eyes

November 29, 2013 Leave a comment

The bionic eyes are realized via a pair of electronic shades with a video camera. The visual image from the video camera is transformed into electric impulses presenting patterns of light and dark. A receiver transmits pulses along a small cable to an electronic array placed where usually the light receptors would be in the retina. The array is stimulated in the same way as light receptors in a normal eye. The electronic signal is then transmitted to the optic nerve and via the optic nerve to the brain. The resolution of the perceived image depends to the number of electrodes in the array. It started out with 16, but a version with 1000 is planned already. Precondition for the use of such a device is an undamaged optic nerve and undamaged areas for visual perception in the brain.

The name of the presented system is ARGUS. It has already successfully implanted in some participants.

Source: Dvice

Stylish prosthetic legs

Functionality ever improved of prosthetics but it has not been thought broadly about making them stylish. A similar effect that had been applied to glasses. Formerly they where just necessary helps but then the point of view switched, more different and customized designs were developed and glasses became part of trends. Might a similar approach could be applied to prosthetics – have fun with the design make them look cool, do not be ashamed or hide them.

Now a company, Bespoke Innovations, offers a new stylish approach for the design of prosthetic legs. After a scan of the original prosthetic leg a 3D model with a fitting cover is generated and customized

For details see here:

Article on

Not everyday products – open doors for wheelchairs

Did you ever wonder how wheelchair users open doors? Or maybe you are a frustrated wheelchair user? Especially at home you can leave out some doors to avoid problems to open them and make the rooms easy accessible but for kitchen, toilet and bathroom you surely want to keep a door. Important for an automatic door opener:

  • easiness installation
  • individual adjustment – of the time until the door opens, the time the door stays open
  • selectable mechanisms to open the door e.g. remote control, motion sensor, switch
  • maintenance – easy to maintain, no blockage of the door if the device fails
  • costs per one device, in case additional costs for the battery

Lately I saw a report on TV that presented a nice solution for an automatic door opener. The device is pasted on the lower edge of the door. A motor powering little wheels moves the door (open/close). Waiting time before the door opens and time the door stays open are adjustable according to the suppliers homepage. In case the device fails the website states that the door can be used in normal way. Even if you are on holiday you could take the device with you. Abotic is the device’s name. Power supply is possible via battery but can also be hard-wired. Does operation via battery a longevity of the battery and is the battery easy to charge? Is the device put in the charger as whole? Does operation via power plug consider careful handling of the cables? One device costs 1499€.

Automatic door opener, image from

Automatic door opener, image from

The principle is different to other solutions, compare:

  • ADA EZ door opener, battery powered or hard-wired, installation at the door angle needed, costs $2199.00, what happens in case of a failure?
  • Private door, installation at the door angle needed, the website makes it a bit complicated to find out if the device is controlled via switch, motion sensor or remote control, the price depends on the selected device type
  • Porteo, battery powered or hard-wired, installation at the door angle needed, costs about 800€