Wearable technology has been a bit of a novelty for many consumers, feeding the desire for the coolest, newest tech on the market. Sadly, this technology has often fallen short of most consumer expectations.
Luckily, wearable technology is making a bigger impact on a more distinct population: people living with disabilities. These companies have honed in on this field and are making a difference.
This Toronto-based startup focuses on improving low vision through the use of electronic glasses. Because most people with low vision still retain their peripheral vision, these electronic glasses are equipped with high definition cameras which capture images that are then beamed to the individual’s periphery.
Thus far, the response to eSight has been positive. Founder Conrad Lewis, who has suffered from vision loss himself, started the company in 2006. With a limited launch in 2013, eSight is preparing for a much larger rollout thanks to increased funding and support. They hope to achieve success in restoring vision for over three million people with low vision.
Ekso Bionics produces bionic exoskeleton suits designed to assist paraplegics and stroke victims in regaining the ability to walk. The suits are built to absorb the user’s body weight, allowing muscles to be reactivated with minimal pain or discomfort.
What began as a project at the University of California at Berkeley over 20 years ago has come a long way. In its early stages, the suit was rather bulky and impractical in size. But with advanced technologies and the addition of Nathan Harding to the project in 2003, they were able to shrink the suits down to a feasible size and present their work to the market. The suits were named HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier) and sold to a U.S. military contractor. They were used to help troops comfortably carry 90kg of heavy gear.
When doctors presented the team with videos of paraplegic rehabilitation, Harding knew that their exoskeleton suits could make a difference. The shift toward medical and rehabilitative applications ensued and has proven a success as these systems are now used in over 100 rehabilitation centers around the world.
Another Toronto-based company, Neutun Labs championed the Neutun app, which utilizes the accelerometer in smartwatches to identify the shaking signals that often precede epileptic seizures. When the watch detects an oncoming seizure, an on-screen prompt appears. If, within a few seconds, no answer is received, notifications are sent out to preset contacts. Also, relevant health information is displayed for emergency responders.
The app is currently being offered for free on the Pebble smartwatches, with launches on the Apple Watch and Android Wear coming soon. As technologies and features advance, a monthly fee will eventually be put into place.
The cost of these technologies is definitely a topic of interest, as many individuals are living with disabilities. There are definitely buyers out there, however, the cost for production and relatively low demand leads to high prices. Finding a way to make these technologies more accessible to those who need it is the next hurdle for these companies.
What do you think of these specialized wearables and their impact on those with disabilities and our future? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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The recent controversy surrounding police officers in Ferguson, MO, is hard to ignore. The fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown made headlines. There are different sides to the story. Witness accounts claim Brown was trying to surrender, arms in the air when he was fatally shot. Police state that as the officer was trying to exit the vehicle, Brown pushed in back in and there was a struggle over the officer’s weapon. Tension between officers and the black community has only worsened since this incident.
The obvious clashing of viewpoints has caused quite an uproar. With protests spanning from violent to peaceful, the media coverage has provided an opportunity to make each sides’ voice heard.
Because it is unclear what exactly happened that night, the push for officers to wear body worn cameras when in uniform has been strong. Many feel that this may decrease incidences of excessive force as well as attacks on officers. As previously discussed in our blog, body worn cameras for police officers have been tested in pilot programs, however, reports of effectiveness have varied.
Here in California, City of Hawthorne Mayor Chris Brown is pushing for the use of these cameras. In a letter released on August 15, 2014, the mayor wrote, “I am simply not willing to gamble with a single life, or the wrongful accusation of upstanding officers.” While these body worn cameras can possibly produce helpful evidence while deterring misbehavior from officers and the public alike, the costs run fairly high. Each camera can run up to $800-$1000 per officer. This expense is a large part of why most police departments have refrained from adopting the program.
As with use of any type of security camera, privacy concerns arise. A possible solution to this would leave it up to the officer’s discretion to turn the cameras on and off. However, human error can cause suspicions. Missing footage because an officer forgot to turn on the camera could spark much controversy depending on the case. Also, taking time to turn the cameras on and off can distract officers and compromise safety for both themselves and the public.
With recent events and what we know about body worn cameras, do you think employing them on our officers would help decrease violence and crimes? Or do you think these cameras be a waste of funds? We would love to hear your thoughts on the topic. You can connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.
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The newest editions of wearable cameras are targeted toward the social media enthusiasts, eager to share their day with the world. These cameras are often small and imperceptible, secretly snapping photos and documenting one’s life. The future of these devices is promising in the social realm, but these cameras could potentially make a positive impact in the medical field as well.
Wearable cameras provide somewhat of a visual diary, what they are now calling “life-logging.” For the social media butterflies, these cameras make it easier to share their lives with their friends and followers. These devices essentially allow a peek into the life of the person donning the camera.
The originators of this technology had something different in mind. These devices were created as a goal to help patients suffering from amnesia or dementia recall important events and aid in memory and recall abilities.
By documenting your entire day, you permit a review of your daily activities. For those with memory issues, whether a type of amnesia or dementia, reviewing these images and videos can help exercise the brain and trigger memory recall.
A previous case study evaluated what was called a SenseCam, and showed that memory could be improved. Reviewing images from the SenseCam regularly helped overall recall. The study showed that the individual “could recall more than 80% of key facts about significant events after a fortnight of reviewing SenseCam images every couple of days and that a similar level of recall persisted for months after she stopped looking at the pictures.” Using these images as cues helped to trigger certain parts of the brain associated with memories. Exercising these parts seemed to have strengthened memory recollection.
While this case study portrays a promising future for these wearable cameras, privacy still remains as a major issue. Especially in healthcare, patient privacy and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) violations may cause controversy.
Do you think these devices impose on other people’s right to privacy, or do you believe they can be plausible devices for health and social media use? Let us know what you think. Connect with us on social networks – Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.
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