The right trousers

Robo-trousers that help people stand up, walk upstairs and get out and about are being designed by British scientists in a government-funded scheme to help the elderly and disabled stay mobile. The University of Bristol is developing “smart trousers” with artificial muscles which give frail people bionic strength so they can live independently for longer. The muscles are air-filled bubbles of plastic that can raise a leg from a seated to a standing position. The project has been dubbed “The Right Trousers” in reference to The Wrong Trousers, the Wallace and Gromit animation in which Wallace constructs a pair of calamitous cyber slacks. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/sep/11/the-right-trousers-wallace-and-gromit-mobility-aid-robotic

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Smart glasses that help blind people “see”

Aira is video-equipped smart glasses, a smartphone app and one-button access to a network of trained professional agents. You get immediate assistance for almost anything you want to do without a sighted person nearby. The system uses augmented reality to enhance your everyday experience. One of the most requested services among Aira’s customers is medication recognition. As a result, AT&T is currently helping develop a recognition solution using Aira’s new AI platform, to correctly identify prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. https://aira.io/

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When technology does good

This app lets blind people “see”

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A social robot that helps autistic adults find work

Researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have built Alyx, a robot that teaches autistic people to recognise social cues. Learning to identify and process these facial expressions is critical to workplace interactions. The team plans to turn the Alyx prototype into a full-bodied, autonomous version, operating in a mock workplace, with clinical trials then planned. http://www.straitstimes.com/world/social-robot-could-help-autistic-adults-find-work

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An off-road wheelchair

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The HexHog is an off-road wheelchair offering unprecedented access to extreme terrain including hills, mud, snow and shallow water. This battery powered machine offers the freedom to go places you wouldn’t have dreamed possible. It allows wheelchair users or those with limited dexterity to enjoy the countryside and back country wilderness. www.hexhog.com

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Grocery Chain Trialing ‘Quiet Hour’ for Autistic Shoppers

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For individuals on the autism spectrum, the bright lights and loud sounds of a busy supermarket can cause sensory overload. In response to customer feedback, Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) in partnership with Coles, has rolled out “Quiet Hour” in 68 supermarket stores today to make the shopping experience a little easier. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-21/coles-rolls-out-quiet-hour-to-help-shoppers-with-autism/9176272

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A 6th sense for blind people

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A wristband called Sunu emits a high-frequency sound wave that bounces off objects as far as 14 feet in front before registering as a gentle, pulsing vibration. The closer the object is — whether it’s a wall, trash can or person — the more frequent the pulses become, allowing blind people to create a mental map of the world around them using echolocation. It’s like the sonar device being used in vehicles to sense nearby objects and avoid crashes. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2017/10/27/for-decades-the-blind-have-used-canes-to-get-around-now-an-special-wrist-band-helps-them-locate-hazards/?

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Pour It Forward – Coffee Shop Only Hires People With Disabilities

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Bitty & Beau’s Coffee in Wilmington, NC (USA) is known for its warmth. At the heart of the shop’s popularity is its unique staff: Almost everyone who works there has an intellectual or developmental disability, ranging from Down syndrome to autism to cerebral palsy. For many employees, it’s their first job, and their joy fills the air. Nearly 70% of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities do not have jobs, these folks resolved to do something about it. https://www.bittyandbeauscoffee.com/  

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A verbal assistant to help with autism

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Pollexy is a special needs verbal assistant that lets caretakers schedule audio task prompts and messages both on a recurring schedule and/or on-demand. Caretakers can schedule regular medicine reminder messages or hourly bathroom break messages, for example, and at the same time use their Amazon Echo and mobile device to request a specific message be played immediately. Caretakers can even set it up so that the person needs to confirm that they’ve heard the message. https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/pollexy-building-a-special-needs-voice-assistant-with-amazon-polly-and-raspberry-pi/

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