Modern technologies and philanthropy go hand in hand

Empatica Embrance

Erik Stríž
Project manager, editor
Bratislava, Slovakia

Functional prostheses from a 3D printer for children all over the world, houses from big Lego bricks and exoskeletons enabling the paralyzed to walk. Do you expect these inventions to be backed by multinational corporations and cost a lot of money? You might be surprised that the very opposite is true.

Modern technologies do not mean only phones, tablets and games. They also bring platforms where individuals and whole groups can create and help. U.S. organizations especially are showing a great example that innovations do not have to be about million dollar investments and years of development. A bit of enthusiasm, an effort to improve the world and technological proficiency can sometimes be enough. Here are several projects using generally accessible modern technology to achieve higher goals.

 

Empatica Embrance

Empatica Embrance

Smart watch monitoring epileptic seizure symptoms

Intelligent watches represent an important innovation in the technology world that is still waiting for its boom. But even today there are devices on the market that can really help. A good example is Embrace, a smart bracelet able to recognize an epileptic seizure before its onset or a currently happening one. The bracelet (or a smart watch) was developed by Empatica primarily for children suffering from epilepsy. The device that can be worn on your wrist or even an ankle recognizes your health status through built-in sensors. On recognizing an emergency, the watch sends a message to preset phone numbers. A parent or a teacher knows exactly when an epileptic symptom will occur and they are able to make necessary precautions to keep the child safe. The device works reliably not only with children, but also with adults and the elderly.

 

NotImpossible EyeWriter

NotImpossible EyeWriter

EyeWriter – drawing with your eyes

Not Impossible Foundation from the United States is truly unique. It creates products that are available for everyone completely free or only for small amounts of money.

EyeWriter is one of their exquisite projects. EyeWriter is basically a glasses frame with small cameras attached. Cameras track movements of the pupils and transfer them to a computer where software recognizes them as commands. So even someone confined to bed can use a computer and communicate with their environment after they adopted several standard eye movements. Members of the Not Impossible Foundation developed and tested this technology in collaboration with graffiti artist Tempt One who suffers from an aggressive type of sclerosis known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Stephen Hawking is affected by the same condition. Complete paralysis of the body including breathing, swallowing and speech is among its syndromes.

The foundation offered its invention to the public completely free. Software can be downloaded to your computer free of charge anytime and the only thing that might cost you a little bit of money are cameras following the eye movements. You can buy all the necessary parts online for about 13 € ($14), which is quite revolutionary. The only thing left is to standardize the technology and make it accessible, so that really everyone can use it, without spending hours dealing with authorities and health insurance companies.

 

BioBots

BioBots

3D printing of human organs and blood vessels

Imagine a world where no one will have to die before someone else can get a new heart. A very nice dream and becoming more real with modern 3D printers. U.S. company BioBots introduced a printer in Las Vegas at the beginning of the year that can produce a functional part of a human organ or even blood vessels and arteries right in front of your eyes within minutes.

The technology still needs time and money to develop, but is en route to change the world of healthcare for patients dependent on transplants. The material which the 3D printer piles on the base layer contains also our body as building parts – collagen, fibrin, PEG and others. The end product is surprisingly clear, as if it was made of silicone. Producers claim that with their 3D bioprinter they can manufacture temporary or even permanent cartilage replacements, certain heart parts and even bones and shorter blood vessels.

 

Eksobionics Exoskeleton

Eksobionics Exoskeleton

Exoskeletons are not just sci-fi anymore

Maybe the word exoskeleton seems quite complicated, but all the science behind it is much more intricate and complex. It is actually an electromechanical suit that enables a person to walk, to have stability or at least partially increases their strength. A functional exoskeleton is a result of mechanics, electrotechnology, electronics, hydraulics and software collaboration. It could not have been made earlier, as it stems from technological advancements of the 20th and the 21st century. Baseline idea behind the development of exoskeletons originates from endeavor to offer independence and walking to people who are paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Even today you can buy, mostly in the United States, a functional exoskeleton which really enables the paralyzed person to walk, although still with the help of crutches.

Exoskeletons still have a long way to go, but we can already find very satisfying solutions and products. They do not have to mean a complete suit for the torso, arms and legs – development of single parts that can be used on their own, just for the arms or the legs, is very important as well. A good example is Titan Arm, worn on the arm and able to increase the user’s strength up to 18 kg (39.7lb). This is very valuable for people who have suffered a stroke.

Exoskeletons still need some time to develop fully. They need attention from big corporations and specialists from around the world. In this way, step by step, we will reach a world where the gap between the able-bodied and the disabled will not be as big and where wheelchairs will not be necessary.

 

EverBlocks Systems

EverBlocks Systems

Houses from Lego mega-blocks

If it is possible to build small houses and castles from Lego, why real houses could not be built from it? Trivial question, but quite correct. It is possible to build large houses from Lego, if individual blocks are big and sturdy enough, long-lasting and possess at least basic thermal insulation capacities.

EverBlocks Systems manufactures and sells huge blocks resembling the popular children’s kit that can be used to put up temporary buildings. It is proving useful where natural disasters hit, in poor areas and anywhere where people are interested in innovative ways of building.

According to the manufacturer, the Polypropylene Co-Polymer material is completely safe, can be cleaned with regular household cleaners and insulates against any bacteria. The best thing about this large building kit is that it enables exceptional variability and is very easy to use. For even a young child can stack building blocks on top of each other.

 

Be inspired by Google

Devising important and good things is not only a task for philanthropists and software and hardware specialists. However this may sound, in the world of altruism and mutual help the effort itself is equally valued, because it is the effort what leads to results changing the world for the better. Your company can also be among those who know how to help and it does not have to cost a lot of extra money or time. You can find inspiration in the company Google – you have certainly come across at least the basic information about their philanthropy activities.

 

Impact Challenge is one of their less known projects. Several teams of laymen and professionals set a few goals how to help people, usually someone with a physical disability, and try for the next 72 hours to reach them. A goal can change during these 72 hours because the end product is focused on a particular person or community.

At the end of the last year, Google partnered with Tikkun Olam Makers and United Cerebral Palsy in order to look for solutions to problems of the disabled and the ill. Winning result of this ’marathon’ is a wheelchair device prototype measuring pressure by multiple sensors. For people with diminished sensitivity to pressure it means a lot because they can check on their phone display if they are sitting correctly, safely and in a healthy way.

 

Photo credits: Empatica, Not Impossible Foundation, BioBots, Eksobionics, EverBlock Systems

 



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