"[T]he current capabilities of many AI systems closely match some of the specialized needs of disabled people.... Fortunately, there is a growing interest in applying the scientific knowledge and engineering experience developed by AI researchers to the domain of assistive technology and in investigating new methods and techniques that are required within the assistive technology domain."
– Bruce G. Buchanan; from his Foreword to Assistive Technology and Artificial Intelligence: Applications in Robotics, User Interfaces and Natural Language Processing
A Texan man has built his own bionic hand using artificial intelligence (AI) after three years of research. After finding most bionic hands can cost up to $150,000, Ryan Saavedra, 27, set out to create one at a fraction of the cost. The prosthetic he created, called the Globally Available Robotic Arm (GARA), measures electrical activity of muscle tissue – a method called electromyography (EMG) – and combines this with AI to predict hand movements. When attached to the limb of an amputee, it is capable of intuitive finger movements and clasping objects such as cups. Saavedra's company, Alt-Bionics, has already made a prototype that costs less than $700 (£520) to produce, and is now working to commercialise the device.
Google, together with speech and language therapist Richard Cave, has developed an experimental Android app designed to provide people living with speech and motor impairments, particularly those who are non-verbal and require communication assistance, with a way to express themselves. Look to Speak uses machine learning and eye gaze technology that lets people use their eyes to look left, right, or up to select from a list of phrases for their phone to speak out loud. The app can also be used to snooze the screen and edit a user's phrase book. Some of the phrases include: Hello, thank you, yes, and no. "As mobile devices become more ubiquitous and powerful, with technologies like machine learning built right into them, I've thought about the ways phones can work alongside assistive technologies. Together, these tools can open up new possibilities -- especially for people around the world who might now have access to this technology for the very first time," Cave wrote in a blog post.
The last edition of CYBATHLON took place on 13-14 November, 2020. This competition, created by ETH Zurich and run as a non-profit project, aims to advance in the research and development of assistive technology by involving developers, people with disabilities, and the general public. We had the chance to interview the winning team of the powered exoskeleton race, Angel Robotics from South Korea. In this race, pilots with complete thoracic or lumbar spinal cord injury from nine teams competed using an exoskeleton. This wearable, powered support enables them to walk and master other everyday tasks.
The continuing rapid development of Industry 4.0 technologies also is benefiting disabled people who have lost limbs. In the U.S. alone, some 185,000 people annually have an amputation; 2.1 million people are living with limb loss, a number expected to double by 2050, according to the U.S. nonprofit Amputee Coalition. Vascular diseases such as diabetes, and trauma, often related to car accidents, are the two leading causes of amputation, but not everyone is fitted with a prosthesis. But for those who do use them, technology is delivering more options for highly functioning artificial limbs. Here are three examples of how technology is improving prosthetics and with it people's lives.
Involving potential users of a particular technology in the research and development (R&D) process is a very powerful way to maximise success when such technology is deployed in the real world. In addition, this can speed up the R&D process because the researchers' perspective to the problem is combined with that of end-users. The non- profit project CYBATHLON was created by ETH Zurich as a way to advance R&D of assistive technology through competitions that involve developers, people with disabilities, and the general public. This 13th and 14th of November, the CYBATHLON 2020 edition is taking place. The event will be live-streamed, and it is completely open to the public.
A British man has been fitted with a prosthetic arm inspired by a character from the classic video game, Metal Gear Solid. The Metal Gear Solid design covers the Hero Arm – the world's most affordable multi-grip bionic arm at around £10,000 – made by Bristol firm Open Bionics. Hero Arm, which is light, comfortable and'fits like a glove', has the dexterity to hold a mobile phone, cutlery or a pen – and operate machinery such as a lawnmower. The arm's movable fingers can also be held in a static position for a safe and reliable grip – and pick up an egg without breaking it. Hero Arm is already available in a range of exterior casings inspired by pop culture and films, such as such as Ironman and BB8 from Star Wars.
It's not every day that you get to see a building walk on its own robotic legs, but here's one of those rare occasions. Authorities in Shanghai, China moved a 7-ton building to a new location by propping it up on robotic legs. This is relatively new technology developed in 2018 and it's being used as an alternative to the traditional way of relocating a building, which involves using side rails or flatbeds. Because the 1935-built Lagena Primary School had to go in order to make room for a new shopping center, authorities decided that, instead of tearing it down, they should move it. The shape of the building posed the biggest challenge, since it meant the traditional way couldn't be used, SCMP reports, as you can see in the video below.
Google has awarded just under $2m to 21 projects in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa, following the first Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge in the region. The move is part of a wider series of regional innovation challenges, and a global commitment from Google News to give $300m "to help journalism thrive in the digital age". A key focus for funding is "to support projects that drive digital innovation and develop new business models". Specifically in the Middle East, proposals were asked to focus on projects that "increase reader engagement and/or explore new business models to build a stronger future for journalism". Engagement was defined as a key metric, given that "engaged users are … more likely to convert to paid subscribers", while the focus on business models sought to encourage "moves which go beyond the traditional means to generate revenues".
The diabolical ironclad beetle is so tough that engineers are hoping to copy features of its exoskeleton to design stronger and more robust structures. "You can run these things over with a car and they don't die," says David Kisailus at the University of California, Irvine. "We took a Toyota, like a sedan, and drove over them and they survived. That was kind of surprising." To investigate what makes these creatures virtually uncrushable, Kisailus and his colleagues performed compression tests on the beetle's exoskeleton, while analysing it under a microscope and by CT scan.
The'diabolical ironclad beetle' can withstand enormous crushing force more than 39,000 times its own body weight, enough to survive being run over by a car. Its exceptional strength comes from highly specialised armour which makes its exoskeleton one of the hardest materials in the biological world. Scientists analysed the beetle's elytron – a hardened set of forewings that protect the more delicate hindwings underneath – to learn more about the miraculous material. They found layers of interlocking chitin, a hard material found in most insects, as well as high concentrations of protein contribute to its extraordinary strength. The beetle species (phloeodes diabolicus) is less than an inch long (2cm) and its exoskeleton could inspire applications in construction and engineering fields such as aeronautics, experts say.