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Wearable Technology For Disabilities

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
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.

Neutun Labs
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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Wearables For The Visually Impaired

The demand for wearable technology seems to be growing. From smart watches to fitness sensors, the use for wearable tech spans a wide spectrum. While novelty uses are often highlighted in the media, wearable devices can have a great impact on the visually impaired also.

A wearable, collision warning device is making its way to the market. The device is worn on a person’s chest to prevent unnecessary collisions. Rather than being based on proximity, the device would instead evaluate the time to collision and issue a warning as necessary. For example, while wearing the device, if something is headed into your path or if you’re going to walk into something, it delivers a beeping alert.

This wearable device can be beneficial to all visually impaired persons, but is especially suited for those with fading or lost peripheral vision. In comparison to other visually impaired persons, these individuals are not conditioned to be alert for impending dangers that they cannot see.

In controlled settings, a study conducted by Researchers from Massachusetts Eye and Ear at Schepens Research Institute showed that accidents were reduced by 37% with minimal change in patient walking speeds. Next, the researchers are looking to test these devices in real world situations. If results return favorable outcomes, we may see this wearable device sooner than later.

While it’s great that this wearable device is gaining attention, it’s not the first in the field of assistive tech devices for the visually impaired. A prototype system of a head-mounted camera that produces 3D maps was introduced in 2009, and Tacit is a wrist-worn device that provides haptic feedback through sonar pulses. There are also walking sticks which house advanced technology and robot guides that act as guide dogs in stair-free environments.

These devices are helpful, but are much more high tech in comparison to this collision warning wearable device. How do you think this device, or any of the others mentioned, will have a lasting impact on the visually impaired? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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How Wearable Technology Will Impact Education

Wearable technology has evolved right before our eyes. Our childhood experiences vary drastically from the children growing up today. As we hone our technology and the Internet of Things, we are subsequently changing the learning environment for our children.

Wearable technology can and will have a positive and enriching impact on the classroom, namely, field trips. In the early stages, wearable tech will enhance the experience, allowing for students to more actively engage in the learning experience. As wearable tech advances, data gathered from field trips will be easier to record, consume, and share across various networks. Eventually students from around the world could potentially be sharing learning experiences and helping each other.

For in-person field trips, students will soon be able to scan QR codes or capture images to find out more information, whether it is in the form of text, video or audio. Enabling students to do so will encourage participation and the first-hand interaction will help them better understand the learning objectives.

After the field trip, rather than a simple discussion, students can take photos or record audio and video to bring back to the classroom. They can share their experiences with peers within the classroom, and even through social media. This will enable lessons and information to reach students across the world.

Virtual reality can take field trips to a whole new level. Students will be able to enjoy and experience things we never thought possible. In lieu of in person field trips, virtual reality headsets could bring the experience to the classroom. Students would be able to virtually explore the Grand Canyon, Ancient Greece, and the depths of the ocean, all in one day and without leaving school. This advanced tech helps kids tap into their imaginative and creative side while teaching students great interpersonal skills.

Such an immersive learning environment is promising for young students. This will hopefully encourage students to be more involved in the curriculum, and persuade students to continue their education into college and graduate school. Knowledge is power, and with new technology, this power is strengthened.

What are your thoughts on wearable technology and its impact on school and education? Do you have young children in school who use some of this technology? How has it helped your children? We would love to hear from you. Connect with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest!

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