Posts Tagged assistive technology

[BLOG POST] Eye Tracking In Windows 10 Is Available Now As Beta Function

Just last week, Microsoft announced that it will have in-built support for compatible eye tracking devices in Windows 10. What that means is that Windows 10 users will not need any special software or interface to use eye tracking devices – they will be able use an on screen keyboard, mouse and text to speech experience to access areas of the Windows operating system, and perform tasks typically accomplished with a physical keyboard and mouse.

The new eye tracking feature is called Eye Control, and will be introduced in a future update. However, it is available as a beta function for now, and you can do the following to enable it, test it out and see its functionality.

  1. Have a compatible eye tracking device like Tobii Eye Tracker 4C. (Other eye tracking devices will be made compatible in the future)
  2. Download and update Tobii’s eye tracking hot fix release ( and run calibration with your own profile.
  3. Update your Windows through Windows Update. The latest update will download and install the Tobii Eye Tracker HIDClass Driver automatically.
  4. Enable Eye Control by Going to Settings->Ease of Access->Other Options->Eye control.

Screenshot of the "Other Options" screen. The "eye control (beta) option is set to "On".

Eye Control Launchpad

Once Eye Control is enabled, the launchpad appears on the screen, and gives access to on screen mouse, keyboard, text to speech, and ability to reposition the UI to opposite side of screen.

Launchpad has four options - 1) reposition the UI, 2) on screen keyboard, 3) text to speech, 4) on screen mouse.

Eye Control Mouse

To use and control the mouse, select the mouse control from the launchpad, and gaze at an object you want to interact with, and select an option that appears in the affordance (visual cue). You can double left click, left click, right click, and cancel with the eye control mouse. In the image below, a user is using the eye control mouse to open Microsoft Outlook.

Eye Control Keyboard

To use the eye control keyboard, select the keyboard from the launchpad, and gaze at the characters that need to be typed. Currently, the EN-US keyboard is supported.

The on screen keyboard also allows “shape writing” for faster typing. All the user has to do is gaze at the first and last letter of a word, and glance at the letters in the middle. The keyboard also shows word predictions when the last letter of a word is typed.

Eye Control Text To Speech

To interact with a family member, a user can launch text to speech from the launchpad, start typing in sentences, and have it spoken out loud.

Eye Control Settings

Settings for Eye Control can be modified by pressing the Fn key (bottom right of keyboard). This is where a user can change dwell times, turn on or off  shape writing and gaze cursor.

There are some known issues for now, which are listed in the source link.

So, there it is! The in built eye control (in beta) for Windows. Give it a spin, and let us know how it goes!

Source: Windows

Additional Reading: Eye Control Is Coming To Windows 10

Source: Eye Tracking In Windows 10 Is Available Now As Beta Function – Assistive Technology Blog


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[ARTICLE] Textile-Based Assistive Wearables – Full Text

Advances in computing technology such as conductive textiles and shrinking chip sizes offer new possibilities for assistive technology (AT). Wearable computing platforms provide many advantages (e.g., reachability, continuous support, communication) that may be especially useful for AT. We provide a snapshot of wearable assistive computing literature spanning the past 20 years in an effort to better understand the trends, usage patterns in this space. We focus especially on the emerging capabilities of textile-based wearable computing platforms. Additionally, we reflect on the trajectory of
these technologies and suggest potential directions for the development of computer-based wearable assistive technologies.

Approximately 19% of the US population lives with a disability (Brault 4). Assistive technology (AT) can help overcome many challenges imposed by an inaccessible environment, such as through the use of sensory substitution (e.g., converting visual information into sound), alternative computer input and output (e.g., eye tracking), and communication support (e.g., text to speech).

AT presents both benefits and drawbacks, with an average of 1/3 of all AT devices abandoned often due to functional and social-cultural reasons (Kintsch and DePaula 2). Some of these problems may be addressed by creating AT that is less heavy, bulky, and obtrusive.

In this paper, we explore the benefits of textile-based wearable computing AT, as these devices may potentially provide support without drawing too much attention. The rise of mobile computing platforms and microelectromechanical systems have solved several power, weight,
size, and bandwidth constraints which previously hampered wearable computing development.

Similarly, advances in e-textiles (e.g., conductive fabrics) enable worn computers that are lighter, smaller, and more flexible, enabling them to be worn comfortably throughout the day or to be designed to look like “normal” attire, avoiding the unwanted attention that some AT produces.

This paper presents an overview of textile-based wearable assistive technology developed over the past 20 years. We specifically focus on how these wearable technologies (wearables) can improve usability, comfort, and social acceptability for people with disabilities (PwD), and identify general trends, opportunities, and challenges for developing new wearable AT. […]

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[BLOG POST] Mayo Clinic Study Helps Paralyzed Man Move Legs Again – Assistive Technology Blog

After a snowmobile accident four years ago, Jered Chinnock was left paralyzed from his torso down, unable to walk. He was prepared to be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life but a new study between Mayo Clinic and UCLA is helping him get back to his feet again.

After intense physical therapy, and a surgery last year, doctors implanted an electrode near his spinal cord. This electrode receives electronic stimulation, which converts his thoughts of moving his legs into actual movement. Currently, although he can move his legs, he cannot feel his legs moving.  The team working with Jered is excited though. They noticed dramatic change in Jered’s leg movement within two weeks, and think that this technology can be used with other parts of the body too.

The team is expected to work with Jered for the next eight months to help him progress even more.


Source: Mayo Clinic Study Helps Paralyzed Man Move Legs Again – Assistive Technology Blog

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[BLOG POST] Assistive Technology: How specialist gadgets and software have increased my independence.

I can’t use a computer without assistive technology. Over the years as computers have become more powerful assistive technology has become better and better. There are now hundreds of specialist gadgets and software that can make it easier for people with disabilities to operate computers or smartphones.

via Assistive Technology: How specialist gadgets and software have increased my independence — Where there’s a wheel, there’s a way

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[BLOG POST] Amazon Echo: A Great Internet of Things (IoT) Device For People With Disabilities – Assistive Technology Blog


photo of amazon echo in a bookshelf
Off and on, you may have heard or read about Internet of Things (IoT). In the coming years, it is supposed to be a new phenomenon (it actually already is) that will make everything much easier and convenient for everyone. But what does it mean? What exactly is it, and how would it help people with disabilities?
Let’s start with the basics – What is Internet of Things? In the simplest of terms, it means that you, as a person, control everything around you (yes, everything!) through the internet. What that also means is that you don’t have to physically access an object to make it do something.
Let’s simplify this a little more further.
Let’s say you have a set of lights in your bedroom – one is a bulb in the ceiling and the other is a bedside lamp. When you go to bed, you physically reach the switch on the wall to turn off the ceiling light, and do something similar with the lamp as well (push a button on it to turn it off). In the morning, when you wake up, you push the button on the lamp again to turn it on, then stumble into the bathroom and look for the light switch, turn it on, and do your business. Everything after that (morning coffee, for example) requires a manual interaction with specific devices also.
With Internet of Things, everything is automated. Before going to bed, you either tell a “smart” device – “turn off all lights”, use an app on your phone, or make a gesture towards a smart device that it understands as a “turn off all lights” signal. When you wake up in the morning, you can have your bedroom lamp and bathroom lights turn on automatically at the same time. Half an hour later, coffee would be ready.
The basic idea here is that everything around you is connected to the Internet – from your lights in the house to your garage door to your car. With voice commands, mobile apps or gestures, you can set up a sequence in which everything you need readies itself without you having to manually interact with them.
Sticking with our example above – after you drink your morning coffee, you ask a device what the weather is like, what the news headlines are for today, and when the next bus is arriving at your nearest bus station. That device will answer all of your questions without you having to open up your other devices (computer, tablet, phone) to find those information.

Makes sense?

There are several companies that have made lots of amazing innovations in the IoT world. One of those innovations is Amazon’s Echo – a little, innocuous looking device that just sits in a corner, but does so many unbelievably powerful things. As a user you can just speak to It and ask it to perform certain actions, and it will do it for you in a jiffy.

What kind of things can it do though?

  1. To begin with, it can tell you the weather and traffic conditions. (“Alexa*, what’s the weather like?”, “Alexa what’s the traffic like?”)
  2. Read Kindle and Audible books to you, and play music for you. (“Alexa, play the Kindle book ‘Be Here Now’”, “Alexa, play ‘The Beatles’)
  3. Look up events and appointments on your calendar and let you know what your day looks like. (“Alexa, what does my day look like?”)
  4. Help you go to the movies by finding the nearest theater and local timings. (“Alexa, where is Deadpool playing?”)
  5. Find local businesses and restaurants. (“Alexa, what time does the nearby pharmacy close?”)
  6. Add items to your shopping list and also re-order previously ordered items from Amazon with just one voice command. (“Alexa, reorder laundry detergent”, “Alexa add coffee filters to my cart”)
  7. Helps you keep track of important tasks. (“Alexa, put ‘file taxes’ to my to-do list”)
  8. Control all lights and other devices around your house. (“Alexa, turn on light 1”, “Alexa, turn off the TV”)
  9. Control your thermostat. (“Alexa, set my bedroom temperature to 68”)
  10. Play games, order an Uber ride, order a pizza from Dominos!
  11. Lots and lots of other things!
*Amazon Echo is always listening for the keyword “Alexa”. If you start a sentence with Alexa, it knows that it is directed towards it (her?).

This video should give you a good understanding of how a person with disabilities can use Echo/Alexa at home.

Automation, in general, is a big victory for the regular consumer in terms of convenience. However, it brings a much bigger convenience and independence factor to people with disabilities, especially anyone who is blind, in a wheelchair, paraplegic, bed ridden because of a spinal cord injury, or doesn’t have good motor skills. It saves them a lot of time and energy by not making them interact with other devices that they may not have skills for or are unable to use them because of various disabilities. The only device they interact with is Echo, through voice, and it provides them with the results and information they are looking for instantly, and thus, saves them a lot of trouble. A person in a wheelchair doesn’t have to try to reach a light switch that’s in an awkward corner of a room, a person with not good motor skills doesn’t have to flip through pages or operate an e-reader to read their books, and a blind person doesn’t need to navigate a website on an electronic device to order a pizza anymore.
Automation through Internet of Things doesn’t only have to be at home. A device like Alexa can be installed by an employer at work as well so that employees with disabilities can be more comfortable in their work environments. A device like Echo is not expensive ($179), and it just makes the ability to provide accommodations an inherent part of the system, and not an afterthought.
This is just the beginning though. The kind of features Amazon keeps adding to Echo is mind boggling, and very exciting to say the least. Keep watching the IoT space to know about more innovations and automations for people with disabilities!

Source: Amazon Echo: A Great Internet of Things (IoT) Device For People With Disabilities – Assistive Technology Blog

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[BLOG POST] Top 5 Ways to Outfit the Bathroom for Disabled or Elderly Loved Ones – Assistive Technology Blog


Bathrooms can be very dangerous, both to the disabled and the elderly. The smooth surfaces, awkward movements, and generally solitary usage of the bathroom makes it one of the most common areas for accidental falls and injuries to occur, both for the elderly and the disabled.

However, given the prevalence of falls and injuries in bathrooms, there are many useful products on the market that can help prevent falls, and allow greater autonomy.

Let’s take a look at 5 of the best ways to outfit bathrooms to help your loved ones avoid falls and other dangerous situations, and give you greater peace of mind.

Grab Bars

Grab bars are perhaps the single most important addition you can make to a bathroom to help your loved ones avoid falls and injuries.

These simple devices are generally made out of a durable plastic or a high-quality stainless steel, and can be applied to walls in the shower, bath, or next to toilets to allow for increased grip and stability during awkward movements, such as getting on or off the toilet, stepping over a shower landing or a tub, or getting feet situated on a more slippery surface.

Grab bars are especially important for the disabled, as those who have trouble walking or are confined to wheelchairs will be unable to otherwise pull themselves onto the toilet.

They’re inexpensive, easy-to-install, and highly recommended as a preventative measure for falls.

Anti-Slip Mats

Anti-slip mats are incredibly important – but not just any mat will do. In fact, improperly secured mats and rugs are another leading cause of falls and injury among the elderly – a poor quality mat, or one that’s installed incorrectly, can actually increase the risk of injury in the bathroom.

The best anti-slip mats are made of a solid, durable rubber which offers great traction, and are usually quite thick – the thickness of these mats prevents the corners and edges from turning or flipping up, and reducing the hazard of tripping.

Anti-slip mats should be placed wherever slipping is likely to occur – not just in the shower, but also on smooth tile surfaces that are likely to become wet, or in front of the toilet if stability is a concern.

Shower Stools

The shower is one of the most dangerous areas in the bathroom. Most often, the cause of a fall in an elderly or disabled person in the shower can be traced to slipping – covered with an anti-slip mat – or fatigue.

The hot temperatures of the shower, combined with an inability to change the temperature or move easily out of the way of the water can cause an elderly person to lose energy and fall.

The best way to combat this is with a shower stool – these high-strength, high-traction, durable products are built to stand up to the shower, and allow your loved one the option of sitting down if they feel that standing is too tiring or risky.

Disabled people generally need shower stools for other reasons – if they cannot stand, a stool makes for a much more comfortable experience than sitting on the floor of the shower or the tub, and even those who can walk may wish to have the option to sit in case they feel tired.

Raised Toilet Seats

Though the shower is often thought of as the main culprit behind accidental falls, the toilet is just as likely to cause serious injury to an elderly person, and disabled people often have trouble adjusting to the awkward movement necessary to sit on a standard-sized and shaped toilet seat.

The best way to help prevent toilet falls is by making the toilet easier to access, and a great way to do this is with a raised toilet seat. These seats usually offer a 5-8 inch rise in height, along with other features like lockable latches and extra side handlebars to aid sitting and standing.

Make Sure That Bathrooms – And Hallways – Are Well Lit At Night

The elderly tend to visit the bathroom more than younger people – and quite a bit more at night. This can be dangerous – especially if there is a long connecting hallway between the bedroom and the bathroom. Often, there are unexpected objects and obstacles in hallways, and if these areas aren’t well-lit at night, your loved one could stumble and fall.

The hallways leading to bathrooms should be lit with as many night lights as necessary to illuminate the path to the bathroom, and ensure that any unexpected object can be seen and reacted to. Motion-sensing lights can be purchased if you’re worried about wasting energy.

The bathroom should also be well lit at night – a night light or motion-activated light is a good idea, as it will allow your loved one to easily locate light switches and other necessities with ease.

Make a Big Difference with Small Tweaks

While the bathroom still can be a risky area for the disabled and the elderly, the above five solutions are inexpensive, easy to implement, and can have a huge effect on your loved one.

Allowing your loved one to be able to use the bathroom with greater autonomy and peace of mind will also help you and the rest of your caregivers relax, knowing that you’ve protected your loved one from the risks of bathroom falls to the best of your ability, and that they have all the tools they need to stay safe.

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Source: Top 5 Ways to Outfit the Bathroom for Disabled or Elderly Loved Ones – Assistive Technology Blog

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[ARTICLE] Computational architecture of a robot coach for physical exercises in kinaesthetic rehabilitation – Full Text PDF


The rising number of the elderly incurs growing concern about healthcare, and in particular rehabilitation healthcare. Assistive technology and and assistive robotics in particular may help to improve this process. We develop a robot coach capable of demonstrating rehabilitation exercises to patients, watch a patient carry out the exercises and give him feedback so as to improve his performance and encourage him. We propose a general software architecture for our robot coach, which is based on imitation learning techniques using Gaussian Mixture Models. Our system is thus easily programmable by medical experts without specific robotics knowledge, as well as capable of personalised audio feedback to patients indicating useful information to improve on their physical rehabilitation exercise.

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[ARTICLE] The Cybathlon promotes the development of assistive technology for people with physical disabilities – Full Text



The Cybathlon is a new kind of championship, where people with physical disabilities compete against each other at tasks of daily life, with the aid of advanced assistive devices including robotic technologies. The first championship will take place at the Swiss Arena Kloten, Zurich, on 8 October 2016.

The idea

Six disciplines are part of the competition comprising races with powered leg prostheses, powered arm prostheses, functional electrical stimulation driven bikes, powered wheelchairs, powered exoskeletons and brain-computer interfaces. This commentary describes the six disciplines and explains the current technological deficiencies that have to be addressed by the competing teams. These deficiencies at present often lead to disappointment or even rejection of some of the related technologies in daily applications.


The Cybathlon aims to promote the development of useful technologies that facilitate the lives of people with disabilities. In the long run, the developed devices should become affordable and functional for all relevant activities in daily life.


Competition, Championship ,Prostheses, Exoskeletons ,Functional electrical stimulation, Wheelchairs, Brain computer interfaces


Millions of people worldwide rely on orthotic, prosthetic, wheelchairs and other assistive devices to improve their qualities of life. In the US there live more than 1.6 million people with limb amputations [1] and the World Health Organization estimates the number of wheelchair users to about 65 million people worldwide [2]. Unfortunately, current assistive technology does not address their needs in an ideal fashion. For instance, wheelchairs cannot climb stairs, arm prostheses do not enable versatile hand functions, and power supplies of many orthotic and prosthetic devices are limited. There is a need to further push the development of assistive devices by pooling the efforts of engineers and clinicians to develop improved technologies, together with the feedback and experiences of the users of the technologies.

The Cybathlon is a new kind of championship with the aim of promoting the development of useful technologies. In contrast with the Paralympics, where parathletes aim to achieve maximum performance, at the Cybathlon, people with physical disabilities compete against each other at tasks of daily life, with the aid of advanced assistive devices including robotic technologies. Most current assistive devices lack satisfactory function; people with disabilities are often disappointed, and thus do not use and accept the technology. Rejection can be due to a lack of communication between developers, people with disabilities, therapists and clinicians, which leads to a disregard of user needs and requirements. Other reasons could be that the health status, level of lesion or financial situation of the potential user are so severe that she or he is unable to use the available technologies. Furthermore, barriers in public environments make the use of assistive technologies often very cumbersome or even impossible.

Six disciplines are part of the competition, addressing people with either limb paralysis or limb amputations. The six disciplines comprise races with powered leg prostheses, powered arm prostheses, functional electrical stimulation (FES) driven bikes, powered wheelchairs and powered exoskeletons (Fig. 1). The sixth discipline is a racing game with virtual avatars that are controlled by brain-computer interfaces (BCI). The functional and assistive devices used can be prototypes developed by research labs or companies, or commercially available products. The competitors are called pilots, as they have to control a device that enhances their mobility. The teams each consist of a pilot together with scientists and technology providers, making the Cybathlon also a competition between companies and research laboratories. As a result there are two awards for each winning team in each discipline: a medal for the person who is controlling the device and a cup for the provider of the device (i.e. the company or the lab).

Fig. 1 Arena with four parallel race tracks designed for the exoskeleton competition. The pilots start at the left and have to overcome six obstacles with increasing difficulty level

Continue —> The Cybathlon promotes the development of assistive technology for people with physical disabilities | Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation | Full Text

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[REVIEW] Effects and impacts of a robotic arm used by individuals with upper limb motor impairment: A scoping review


Individuals with motor impairments may be limited in the realization of their activities of daily living, their leisure activities or their work activities. To overcome these limitations, the involvement of a caregiver and/or the acquisition of assistive devices are often necessary. In the last few years, more and more assistance robots have been developed and the interest they generate is growing. Among these, there are robotic arms aiming to improve the functional autonomy of people living with upper limb motor impairment.


Since the effects and impacts of the use of a robotic arm by these individuals are not well documented, this study aims at obtaining an overview of what has been reported until now in the scientific literature.


To achieve this, we undertook a scoping review. Four databases were searched: PubMed, Embase, Compendex and Scopus. Following a selection process involving different steps, 36 papers were retained. Relevant data, the same for each paper, were recorded. The quality of the selected papers was evaluated using the Critical Review Form for Quantitative Studies (McMaster University). The papers were also classified according to the Canadian Model of Occupational Performance and Engagement (CMOP-E). The CMOP-E allowed us to identify the occupational domains addressed in the retained studies.


Twenty-four papers presented results related to basic activities of daily living, 18 to instrumental activities of daily living, 9 to work activities, 8 to leisure activities, 2 to school and 2 to games. The quality assessment revealed a mean score of 8.8/15, demonstrating that the effects and impacts of robotic arms have to establish in a more rigorous way. The utilisation of a robotic arm has more positive than negative effects and impacts on the various occupational domains.


These assistive devices have the potential to be successfully integrated into the users’ life, but some improvements are desirable to increase the satisfaction related to their utilization.

Source: Effects and impacts of a robotic arm used by individuals with upper limb motor impairment: A scoping review

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[ARTICLE] User-centred input for a wearable soft-robotic glove supporting hand function in daily life


Many stroke patients and elderly have a reduced hand function, resulting in difficulties with independently performing activities of daily living (ADL). Assistive technology is a promising alternative to support the upper limb in performing ADL. To avoid device abandonment, end-users should be involved early in the design and development phase to identify user requirements for assistive technology.

The present study applies a user-centred approach to identify user requirements for wearable soft-robotic gloves targeted at physical support of hand function during ADL for elderly and stroke patients.

Elderly, stroke patients and healthcare professionals, participating in focus groups, specified requirements regarding:

  1. activities that need support of assistive technology,
  2. design of wearable robotic devices for hand support, and
  3. application of assistive technology as training tool at home.

Assistive technology for the support of the hand is considered valuable by users for assisting ADL, but only if the device is wearable, compact, lightweight, easy to use, quickly initialized, washable and only supports the particular function(s) that an individual need(s) assistance with, without taking over existing function(s) from the user.

Source: IEEE Xplore Abstract – User-centred input for a wearable soft-robotic glove supporting hand function in daily life

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