Assistive Technologies


Being bionic: how technology transformed my life

The Guardian

I was born with the usual set of limbs. When I was nine months old, I contracted meningococcal septicaemia, a dangerous infection of the blood, which very nearly killed me. I survived, but because I had sustained major tissue damage, it became necessary to amputate my right leg below the knee, all of the fingers on my left hand and the second and third digits on my right hand. I learned to walk on a prosthetic leg at the age of 14 months, and have gone through my life wearing a succession of artificial limbs. As time has passed and technology has advanced, so too have my limbs. Like our mobile phones, prostheses have become lighter, faster and more efficient. When I was nine, I was fitted with a lifeless silicone hand, a useless thing that was purely cosmetic, and so clumsy that I refused to wear it after the first day. Now, at 21, and a student in my third year at Edinburgh University, I wear a bionic arm with nimble fingers that move independently, which I operate using controlled muscle movements in my forearm, as well as an app on my phone. As a child I wore a stiff artificial leg attached with straps that frequently fell off; earlier this summer, I took delivery of a new dynamic right leg with shock absorption and carbon fibre blades. Prosthetics have been around for more than 3,000 years: wooden toes, which strapped on and were specifically designed to work with sandals, were found on the feet of Ancient Egyptian mummies.


Microsoft's new neural text-to-speech service helps machines speak like people

#artificialintelligence

Microsoft has reached a milestone in text-to-speech synthesis with a production system that uses deep neural networks to make the voices of computers nearly indistinguishable from recordings of people. With the human-like natural prosody and clear articulation of words, Neural TTS has significantly reduced listening fatigue when you interact with AI systems. Our team demonstrated our neural-network powered text-to-speech capability at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida, this week. The capability is currently available in preview through Azure Cognitive Services Speech Services. Neural text-to-speech can be used to make interactions with chatbots and virtual assistants more natural and engaging, convert digital texts such as e-books into audiobooks and enhance in-car navigation systems.


Why Would Prosthetic Arms Need to See or Connect to Cloud AI?

#artificialintelligence

Based on "Connected Arms", a keynote talk at the O'Reilly AI Conference delivered by Joseph Sirosh, CTO for AI at Microsoft. There are over 1 million new amputees every year, i.e. one every 30 seconds – a truly shocking statistic. The World Health Organization estimates that between 30 to 100 million people around the world are living with limb loss today. Unfortunately, only 5-15% of this population has access to prosthetic devices. Although prostheses have been around since ancient times, their successful use has been severely limited for millennia by several factors, with cost being the major one.


AT&T's LTE-M device can help doctors perfect prosthetic limbs

Engadget

AT&T has teamed up with prostheses provider Hanger Clinic to develop a standalone, network-connected device that can help doctors tweak prosthetic limbs for each patient's needs. The small device, designed to stick to a prosthesis, is equipped with an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer. Those components can detect and collect the data medical providers need to be able to figure out if a patient has issues with their limb's fit and comfort or if they're having any movement issues. And, since the device uses AT&T's LTE-M network, it can upload that information to the cloud in near-real time even with no WiFi or Bluetooth connection. According to Hanger Clinic Vice President Aaron Flores, not all amputees can communicate their concerns or discomforts properly.


Yemen's war on body parts sparks cottage industry in prosthetic limbs

FOX News

A look at how Yemen's brutal civil war is creating a market for prosthetic limbs. Each is missing a vital part of their body – a hand, a leg, an arm. Inside that building is new hope for each: Prosthetic limbs are being cut, carved, melted and molded. Young patient recently outfitted with a new leg waits for his training session outside the Ma'rib prosthetics center in Yemen (Fox News/Hollie McKay) "Sometimes I go to my office to cry for each of these miserable stories," Dr. Haitham Ahmed Ali Ahmed, a Sudanese volunteer with Physicians Across Continents, told Fox News. "It isn't fair, but we do whatever we can to give them another chance."


Twilio gets more than 50 new text-to-speech voices with Amazon Polly

ZDNet

Twilio is giving developers more control over their interactive voice applications with built-in support for Amazon Polly -- the AWS text-to-speech service that uses deep learning to synthesize speech. The integration adds more than 50 human-sounding voices in 25 languages to the Twilio platform, the cloud communications company announced Monday. In addition to offering access to different voices and languages, Polly will enable developers using Twilio's Programmable Voice to control variables like the volume, pitch, rate and pronunciation of the voices that interact with end users. Programmable Voice has long offered a built-in basic text-to-speech (TTS) service that supports three voices, each with their own supported set of languages. TTS capabilities, however, have improved dramatically in recent years, and Twilio notes that Amazon has been at the forefront of these improvements.


Artificial Intelligence Is Helping Blind People See In Philadelphia

#artificialintelligence

Money is one of many challenges for people who are visually impaired. Its features include recognizing different kinds of products which are then spoken into an earpiece. "Oreos cookies, it will tell me it's Oreos cookies this is how you recognize the product," said Pedro. Dr. Georgia Crozier with the Moore Eye Institute says MyEye is unlike other devices that work with magnification. This sees for the person and translates it into words.


The people with dragon legs and electric fingers

BBC News

Just because something is practical doesn't mean it has to be unfashionable. See how seven disabled people have "pimped up" the equipment they use every day. Viktorija Radvila's custom-made prosthetic leg cover is adorned with sculpted dragons and crystal beads. She describes it as a "Sunday best" item. "I put this on instead of a necklace or rings if I'm going out and I want to look smart," the 34-year-old Lithuanian, who now lives near London, says.


Kayaker Locates Owner of Prosthetic Leg Found in Arkansas

U.S. News

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that 38-year-old Michael Nelson was kayaking in the Little Red River on Sunday when he saw the pink sole of a Nike sneaker floating. He says the leg is "in pretty good shape" besides some rusted screws.


Mark Swinhoe death: Victim was beaten with own prosthetic leg

BBC News

A man was beaten with his own prosthetic leg before being stabbed to death in a drugs deal that went wrong. Mark Swinhoe, 38, from Long Eaton, Derbyshire, died in Moira Street, Loughborough, in the early hours of 14 January. He was attacked and killed by two men in what detectives described as a "vicious and violent encounter". Harry Matthews, 22, of Brush Drive, Loughborough, was convicted of murder at Leicester Crown Court on Monday. Matthews was also found guilty of assault.