Hackaday contest is on


$120,000 in prizes even before the finals. Up to $200 to start a project.


Good question, but I don’t really know. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I am a partial paraplegic, and mobility issues are something that I’m always dealing with, so assistive tech is something that I care about, But, it’s a hard area to do something meaningful in. The only thing I have right now is new motivation to try to be creative in this area.

EDIT: Assistive tech is the focus, but there’s an anything-goes category too.

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Mobility devices can be very complex and expensive because of the kind of problem they have to solve.

I will probably think more about devices for elderly folks. For instance, my mom is having memory issues, and when I stayed with her, the most useful thing I did was to post “TODAY IS” notes with the date and the days activities. It helped her mark time (dementia patients tend to sleep erratically making it hard to mark the passage of time) and to be grounded regarding what was happening that day. The lack of a predictable future is a source of anxiety. So an assistive device here might be as simple as easily readable agenda app that can fill that need. Challenges include the fact that you cannot teach the UI to someone who can’t remember, so all of the UI affordances have to be extremely intuitive, or absent entirely.

@ cyberh0me - How does she control her wheelchair? Sip/puff device (a straw for air) or a joystick? I would have figured that there are sip/puff interfaces for mobile phones, but maybe not.

I wonder if these things are expensive because they are considered medical devices, or because companies are greedy. Greedy is easier to fix.

Edit: fixed to use the proper name for sip/puff switch

@ cyberh0me - For the phone solution, you might consider recommending an Apple device and a bluetooth sip/puf or squeeze switch. All iOS devices have a ‘switch mode’ that lets you operate the device with a simple switch. ‘Expensive’ is relative, and yes, Apple devices could easily fall into the ‘expensive’ category, but they can be pretty accessible devices.

EDIT: My first foray into this has already told me that sip/puf devices are incredibly overpriced USD$200-500 for something that seems like it ought to cost much less. It’s a pressure sensor and USB or BLE interface. $400?

but I suspect that the reliability barrier is part of the reason the pricing gets so high… and the R&D cost is probably non-trivial (but I think those in this chat so far realise this given our backgrounds - doesn’t make it right, just means it is what it is)

@ mcalsyn - BioSnapper :wink:

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I have an idea for something. One of my goals for this year is get my weight back down below 200 pounds. So I started running once a week with my colleges around the Savannah. They tell me that my running technique is poor, and that I’m constantly heel striking. This makes me sore and tire quickly. So I figure, that if I put pressure sensors in my shoes: in the heel, mid foot, the toes etc. then I will be able to alert myself (via some sort of vibration feedback) that I landed incorrectly.

An IoT Trainer Shoe. It keeps a log and reports progress to the smartphone I’m carrying, via either wifi or bluetooth (one device in each shoe).


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200 pounds for a young lad like you!! And there was me thinking 74kg was too heavy for me. :wink:

And fortunately, I doubt the demand is very high. Lots of R&D, certifications, engineerng, etc. for a very small population. This actually sounds like a great DIY project. I wouldn’t trust it to something like navigating a wheelchair but something like a phone or dozens of other applications would be perfectly fine.

I don’t run anymore but when I did I remember having nothing else to do but think about that next step and the pain… This sounds like something that should be very easy to self-remedy. Didn’t Nike just come out with some shoes like this with all sorts of sensors in them?

@ ianlee74 - Yep, I guess people are doing that already. Ah well. Would be nice to get one. Would be nicer if it gave haptic feedback.

@ Dave McLaughlin - Actually I currently weight 231 pounds (104 Kg)

EDIT: I started the year at 245 pounds

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you avatar shows you handling those 200+ quite well… :wink: .

@ Brett - I know right :slight_smile:

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Every time he gets to 200# he just splits into another Smith… :wink:

(sorry mcalsyn we totally hijacked the thread)

@ ianlee74 - That’s Smith Mitosis for ya :smiley:

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No worries - I think I have a first project figured out. I’ve never entered one of these before. I am going to do the memory-aid device. Roughly, I am thinking about a 4D 7" touch cape, a Beagle Bone Wireless (by GHI), a PIR motion sensor, and an Adafruit 3G modem breakout.

The idea is to use the display to help people with memory/cognition problems stay grounded by informing them of the current date and activities, while letting them page forward or backward in the agenda. On drilling into an activity, I might display pictures of people to aid in recall (if Joe is taking you do the doctor, show a picture of Joe).

The PIR will help track motion, as a lack of motion over time might mean we should ping the user. The 3G modem will take over in settings where wifi is not readily available, but cell coverage is.

Seniors, especially with cognition issues, have a hard time driving Skype, so for bonus points, I might consider trying to add a camera, mic, speaker and enabling some sort of super-simple teleconf UI, but this might also force me into a LattePanda instead of the BB.

Anyway - that’s the concept. Mostly a software project, aside from maybe printing a nice case.


@ mcalsyn - That memory device sounds like a regular phone app.

Well, if it completely replaced the shell, yes. But I was thinking more of a picture-frame type device on a tabletop or wall. The issues with a phone is that it is easy for a senior to misplace or forget to charge; is small and difficult to use for hands that are not agile or are shaky; and the standard shell UI is hopelessly confusing. UI’s need to be modal, shallow, and return automatically to a homepage.

I also forgot to mention the plan for how info gets into this thing - and that is via a web interface that relatives/caregivers can use to check up on status and to update the agenda.

So, @ Mr John Smith, you are right - it hardware-wise might resemble a mobile phone in a block-diagram sort of way. But the fixed-location, large format form factor and the single-app UI is central to making it suitable for this task.

Now all I need to do is create the 48-hour day…

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