Thursday 26 January 2017, 07:49 | By Adam Hallows
In the News January 2017: Home Smart Home
January is a time for reflection, and looking ahead. CSL’s sister organisation, the Agile Ageing Alliance (AAA) is currently doing just that with an upcoming report on how technology will revolutionise domesticity to help us live longer, more connected lives in our home.
The report was inspired by the many organisations and individuals AAA met in 2016 as we took soundings from world capitals to city halls and rural communities; employing design thinking, storytelling and creative visioning to explore new paradigms for ‘Agile Ageing’ in our Neighbourhoods of the Future. And it follows a year that saw a wealth of innovations helping those with long term or life limiting conditions to live a more independent, inclusive life.
The Nominet Trust’s latest list of ‘the world’s most inspiring projects using digital technology for social change’, is one example that gave us plenty of food for thought.
A Change is Going to Come
As the ‘UK’s leading social tech funder’, NT has once again highlighted a number of innovations addressing a variety of health and social needs. And according to the Guardian; “More than a quarter of the entries to this year’s Nominet Trust 100 use technology to promote inclusion”.
They highlighted innovations like Open Voice Factory, an open source software providing communication aids to help those with speech difficulties. Hand Talk is “an app that instantly translates text or audio into sign language”, and Disrupt Disability uses an online library of free designs so users can create bespoke wheelchairs, many of which can be made using 3D printing.
Walk With Path, “has developed two shoe products that reduce the risk of falls in vulnerable people”, while Dot Watch “is described as the first braille smartwatch, providing social media, news and messages”.
And there was the latest in a long line of innovations proving that music really is one of the best forms of social inclusion, no matter your circumstances. This time it comes courtesy of the South West Open Youth Orchestra’s founders OpenUp Music (the UK’s only disabled-led regional youth orchestra), who “have developed a range of digital instruments that can be played with any part of the body, including the eyes”.
You can see the full list of nominees here, but it really does give us hope to see such a wide range of innovative products making their way to a larger audience. And talking of wider audiences, one small UK company has gone global using 3D printing and open source design to produce prosthetic limbs for children around the world. All from their garden shed.
Out On a Limb
According to this BBC article, Team Unlimbited is made up of tech enthusiasts Stephen Davies and Drew Murray and works from a garden shed to “provide free 3D prosthetic hands and arms for children who are born without”.
Davies had direct experience of the problems faced by those requiring prosthetics, himself having been born without a hand. And after seeing the standard NHS issue prosthetic hand (not for the feint hearted), he went online and found Murray who is part of a network who make free 3-D prosthetics for children. After creating a new device for Murray, the two began Team Unlimbited to make lightweight, affordable prosthetics for children around the world.
Of their work they say: “We are not a charity, we’re just two men in a shed. It’s rewarding to use our professional skills in a different way”.
It really is amazing to think that a relatively new mass-market technology like 3D printing is already changing people’s lives around the world in ways we could never have imagined. And as the cost of technology decreases and encourages creativity, we’re sure that we’ll see more people augmenting themselves with these enhancing technologies.
Worth the Weight?
Technologies such as the one featured in this recent piece in The Memo, which revealed a new hearing device in development by South Korean company Olive Union who aim to decrease the cost and weight of hearing aids while increasing their style.
According to company CEO, Owen Song; “Because of the financial barriers and negative social perception of wearing hearing aids, many who are hard of hearing simply give up on hearing perfectly”.
Their solution was to design an aid which connects to your smartphone to deliver a range of functions, such as hearing tests, and can be easily recharged each day. And with its improved aesthetics they hope to increase the number of people comfortable with wearing a hearing device.
Every day we look for more stories like these. Innovations, social programmes, inspiring individuals looking to promote a new way of looking at an issue that many assumed would never improve. So if you want to hear about them all, then be sure to follow us on Twitter, and join the discussion with the Agile Ageing Alliance LinkedIn group.
Until next month, stay creative.
Image used with permission: Copyright: ilterriorm / 123RF Stock Photo