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.
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These days, wearable tech seems to be the ultimate convenience. A prevalent trend would be the smart watches, which condense your smart phone into a highly advanced wearable watch. The demand is so high that Intel is holding a “Make It Wearable” contest. The purpose of the competition is to create a unique wearable tech to improve daily living. Of the contestants is Nixie, a flying wearable camera quadcopter.
Nixie’s goal is to capture your treasured moments from a different perspective and in a way you couldn’t do it before. In essence, these are the candid moments you wish you had documented. And because Nixie is a drone, you eliminate the need for an actual photographer while achieving astounding angles for unique photos. This allows for everyone to truly enjoy the moment providing honest moments in snapshots.
Nixie is worn on the wrist, and with a simple gestue, it can fly up and off to snap a photo and then returns to the person’s hand. It’s similar to a camera and a boomerang rolled into one.
It all seems like a wonderful device, but as with commercial drones these days, problems can and will arise. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is slowly but surely finalizing various policies and regulations concerning commercial use of drones. And as with anything flying in the air, safety issues come into play. Malfunctions or misuse can cause trouble, potentially putting the user and Nixie in hot water.
Despite these issues, the competition rolls on. We’ll have to wait until November 3 to see who comes out on top. With all that’s been said, how much will the Nixie improve your everyday life? Do you see this as more of a novelty item or do you think most people will embrace these types of gadgets? Will the FAA or safety issues cause problems? We want to hear your thoughts. You can connect with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Pinterest.
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