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Innovations in the assistance technology sector

In recent years, there have been tremendous efforts to spur on research and development into new and innovative ways to help people stay mobile and independent. With computing power, 3D printing and artificial intelligence all gaining importance, tech developers are beginning to open up pathways to new and, sometimes, life-changing products. 

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Innovations in the assistance technology sector

In recent years, there have been tremendous efforts to spur on research and development into new and innovative ways to help people stay mobile and independent. With computing power, 3D printing and artificial intelligence all gaining importance, tech developers are beginning to open up pathways to new and, sometimes, life-changing products. 

One of the best examples of research and innovation within the industry is the Inclusive Technology Prize. Sponsored by Nesta – a charitable organisation dedicated to helping people and groups see their visions for a better world succeed – the event highlights the newest thinking in the assisted living devices sector. The prize is designed to help entrepreneurs develop their products after they have demonstrated the impact that they could have on the lives of disabled people, their friends, families and carers alike.

Within this care sector, there are a number of different types of technology and devices that may help people lead more independent lives. There are “everyday technologies” to help people with mobility issues, disabilities, cognitive impairments and other limitations. These can be adaptations to devices such as iPads, Kindles and even smartphones. They can also be mobility enhancements like customisable home stairlift technology or mobility scooters.

There is also a growing segment of the marketplace that focuses on creating thoughtful software systems that can operate and enhance assistive technology.

According to organisers at Nesta, innovation in the assistive care sector has not kept pace with other markets. They are hoping to create interest amongst a wide variety of companies to create new technology. The award program is designed to encourage this development.

Here are some of the top 10 finalists for the innovation prize that are focused on improving mobility and everyday life:

Affordable Bionic Hands

From a new company called Open Bionics, this group is hopeful to make bionic parts more affordable and comfortable to use and wear. According to makers, these bionic hands are a truly life-changing technology. They offer freedom, a higher quality of life, and a better level of independence. They are designed to allow users to complete everyday tasks like eating, hygienic needs, and hopefully lower the impact of their disability.

In the past, the biggest problem with bionic hands was the cost. Using new 3D printing technology, Open Bionics is hoping to create them for as little £1,000 and directly to the patient.

AzuleJoe: the first open source communication aid

There are an estimated 23,000 people in the UK who cannot effectively communicate because of a lack of access to assistive technology, according to this product’s developer. Created by eQuality, AzuleJoe is an open-source assistive communication tool. It can run on any platform and has been seen as a breakthrough for many users. AzuleJoe is the first open-source option that is free at the point of delivery. Click here to see a user demo the program.

Evolvable Walking Aid

The brainchild of industrial design student Cara O’Sullivan, this device has already won an award from the James Dyson Foundation. The product is part of a kit that can be built into a number of different walking aids depending on the user’s particular needs. Users report they have more control over their individual support needs. The result has been an increase in their confidence, thereby reducing their risk of injury or falls. The device offers a new level of independence and reduced the need for a number of different, and expensive, walking aids.

HandyClix

This innovator saw a need because there are many wheelchair users that also have impaired hand use. The HandyClix is a one-handed lap belt that gives the user freedom and independence to secure themselves safely and with one hand. The product’s universal design allows for right- or left-handed users and can be fitted to different styles of wheelchair. The HandyClix lap belt is expected to retail for £27.

PlanHub

Creators of this innovation point to the detached nature of the 11 million disabled people in the UK to the 433 local authorities and countless support services set up to help them. It is this fragmented communication network that makes independence a difficult proposition for many. PlanHub is a new, communication platform that links emergency information, health plans, administration and services into a single, online location. 

Nimble

This product affords a return to freedom as well. By using just one finger, Nimble’s safe blade profile cuts through most plastic packaging. It allows users the opportunity to return to the kitchen to cook their favourite dishes with limited assistance. Or open that moulded plastic packaging around toys and electrical devices. The maker, Version 22 Design, says the product is perfect for people with limited hand mobility, joint pain, little-to-no hand strength, hand tremors, reduced hand-eye co-ordination, deformed or swollen hands.

Image Credit: phsymystMark LongairTravis WiseIntel Free Press

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