Honda Walking Assist Device

Honda Motor Co., Ltd has been working on the development of the Walking Assist Device since 1999. As with the ASIMO robot, Honda’s humanoid robot, the Walking Assist Device uses new control technologies. The Honda Walking Assist Device has been tested at 50 hospitals in Japan as well as a clinical research study which has been conducted at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) since 2013. Honda has received positive feedback from users, physical therapists, medical professionals, and researchers, all of which acknowledge the effectiveness of the device for rehabilitation.

Now this coming November, the Honda will start leasing the Walking Assist Device (approx. 450 units/1st year) to Japanese hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. The device can help training of walking and guiding to achieve effective walking for persons with reduced walking ability due to injury, illness or other causes (i.e. stroke). The key features of the Walking Assist Device are compact, lightweight, and easy to put it on because it is worn outside of clothing. The Walking Assist Device influences the user to achieve motions such as bending and extending both legs. It also helps user’s leg motions which enable smooth shifting of weight from heel to sole and sole to toe. One article in the Honda Website described as follows: “the control computer activates motors based on information obtained from hip angle sensors while walking to improve the symmetry of the timing of each leg lifting from the ground and extending forward and backward, and to promote a longer stride for easier walking.”

Honda Walking Device

Honda Walking Device



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Naida CI Q30 and Q90

The Global Elderly and Disabled Assistive Technology market will grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 5.59 percent during the period 2014 to 2019 according to an article (PRNewswire).

We may see variety of products with simple or complex designs among hearing devices, mobility and ambulatory devices (i.e. Wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers), vision and reading aids, and Ergonomic Furniture and Bathroom Safety Equipment.

For example, Advanced Bionics(AB), a part of the Sonova Group, will introduce FDA approval of enhanced Naida CI Q30 and Q90 sound processors in Canada and US sometime this year. AB is known as a global leader of cochlear implant technology. Some advanced features in Q Series include new microphone technology for focusing on speech and can block prominent sounds, such as wind and echoes, to enhance hearing in challenging settings.

Naida CI Q90 - hearing aid

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Be My Eyes – helping blind see

iOS devices (iPhone/iPad) are very popular among the visually impaired mobile device users. For example, most of them use VoiceOver, which is a gesture-based screen reader, and comes on IOS devices. Voice commands let the user schedule meetings, make phone calls, and look up the nearest stores or restaurants.

Be My Eyes app may be also helpful to have on their iOS devices. If blind persons are living alone or in new environments, they may need to identify the detailed descriptions of the pictures or objects. For example, they may want to know the expiration date on a food label, a picture description or identify something in their new surroundings, but no one is around to help them, this app could help them. Be My Eyes is an app that visually impaired persons can connect with volunteer helpers from the world via live video chat.

Be My Eyes – helping blind see

After you install this app, you sign up as either a person needing help or as a volunteer person, who can help blind or a visually impaired person. If you speak more than one language, you can help people around the world.  When the CBS news talked about this app in February 2015, the volunteer number was about 114k. Now the number of volunteers increased more than double in August 2015 (289k).

Technology solutions for the visually impaired are not all available, and unfortunately, when it comes to funding, iOS devices are not easy for those with low-income to acquire. However, if you are an iOS user, you can be one of remote volunteer helpers by installing “Be My Eyes” app in new ways to help the visually impaired.   Here is the Be My Eyes app link to download.

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Home, “Smart Home”

Smart Home, equipped with electronic appliances that can be controlled remotely, has been marketed as the house of the future. This trend will help everyone including seniors and persons with disabilities. A few years ago, when I was looking for inexpensive remote control systems, there were not many products readily available. Assistive technology companies were selling environmental control devices, which they sold anywhere from $600 to $6500 and possibly more.  Besides, I found some of them were difficult for the users and their family members to configure and learn. The cost of smart homes can be difficult to obtain because insurance companies may not currently cover the cost of smart home technology.

However, today, you can find environmental control units at hardware stores or online.  For example, some elderly persons or wheelchair users may not be able to easily turn on and off lights because light switches are beyond their reach. Then, you can use a product like ConnectSense by Connect Grid. The technology (i.e. X10) has been on the market for many years, but the updated smart types can now be operated from apps on Smartphones.  If you are looking for more features, most basic kits start from $100, and you can expand your home automation options later depending upon your needs. These products are easy to install and include notifications or alerts to your Smartphone even when you are away from home if you have Internet wireless connectivity in the home.

Some features of Smart home products (Insteon, SmartThings, and more) include:

  • Secure your home with or without monthly cost
  • Receive notifications when people, pets, and cars come and go
  • Flood prevention
  • Remotely adjust the thermostat to save energy
  • Lock and unlock doors
  • Control and monitor your home from your smartphone or tablet, anywhere in the world
  • Schedule lights to turn on and off at sunrise, sunset or any time of your choosing
  • Detect leaks and motion and even monitor doors and windows
  • Get immediate alerts by text messages or e-mail
  • Receive text message and email
  • See and control your WiFi camera from your smartphone

You can buy a specific product you are interested in or buy their basic starter kit and add-on more later. You can review some product comparisons from this link: click here.



Smart Home options have been expanded to a few service sectors as well. For example, AT&T and Comcast have started working on developing products to protect and monitor the elderly from dangerous falls (EverThere–AT&T) or help disabled persons to access and control their services (Talking TV guide – Comcast).

Challenges to house automation still exist.  For example, signal strength issues can lead to distance limitations. Protecting privacy and cyber-security are other issues. However, this new wave of house automation is becoming affordable and getting easier for anyone to implement at home. These products may still not cover all of the needs for individuals with disabilities or may not be compatible with all assistive technology devices (i.e. AAC), but the future “Jetsons” home is nearly here!

Jetsons future of technology

Jetsons future of technology


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Pepper – Intelligent robot

Many researchers and developers have been working on robotic applications to support the physical and educational needs of persons with disabilities.  S0me examples are medical devices that can be used during surgery procedures, robot-assisted rehab to enhance human motor controls and strength, and personal robots that can perform human interactions with real-time feedback.

One of the personal robots that can perform human interactions with real-time feedback is Pepper from a French firm, Aldebaran Robotics (, owned by SoftBank corp., the world’s largest mobile phone company in Japan. Pepper is under 4 feet tall and weighs about 61 pounds. He can be programmed in 16 languages and is designed to live with humans at home. He doesn’t clean or cook (so what good is he?), but he is a social robot that can interact with voice, touch and emotions. The Aldebaran website says, “Pepper can translate what state you are in using his knowledge of universal emotions (joy, surprise, anger, doubt and sadness) and his ability to analyze your facial expression, body language and the words you use.” So you can have a cheerful or lonely Pepper at home based on your preference. However, it seems that Pepper will need more improvements and enhancements on apps so that he can understand each real-time question correctly.


Pepper – intelligent robot

Meet Pepper, the Friendly Humanoid Robot

The first consumer launch in Japan made only 1000 units available to the public this June 2015. All units were sold within a minute. Unfortunately, Pepper isn’t reasonable for everyone. The base price is 198,000 yen ($1,600), but you also need to sign a 3-year contract ($200 month) and additional insurance pack, which adds up to a total of $9,000. SoftBank also plans to launch “Pepper for Biz” in the fall and make the robot available for business. It looks like we may see this robot, Pepper, in the US within 12 months.

Many researchers and developers continue to focus their research to overcome the real-world obstacles to the use of robots as an effective assistive technology. It is exciting to know that robotic applications have been effectively applied not only to motor rehabilitation but also to support psychological and emotional interactions.  We may not be too far away from seeing robots like Pepper greeting customers in stores, teaching and interacting with students at schools, and being companions in assistive living facilities.

Robot Pepper Sells Out In 60 Seconds | Tech Bet | CNBC


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Wearable medical devices and sensors

Wearable technologies have been one of the exciting developments to expand possibilities in our daily life for everyone including persons with disabilities. You may be familiar with a wearable device like smartwatches that can provide real-time access to information online and advanced features to make your daily activities easier. In addition some wearable devices are used to monitor your health such as measuring your blood pressure or heart rate. For example, smart wristband (i.e. Jawbone UP3) has a heart rate tracking system built into the device. Other types of wearable devices can be used to monitor your family or loved one. Interests in wearable technologies are even growing among young developers. For example, Kenneth Sinozuka, one of the Google Science finalists, developed a wearable sensor to monitor his grandfather, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. The wearable sensor devices which is installed to his grandfather’s shoes and triggers whenever his grandfather steps out his bed. As a result, his family members were able to monitor and prevent his grandfather from wandering away.

Kenneth Shinozuka – Wearable Sensors for Aging Society

So what is next? Many scientist and engineers have been developing the next generation of wearable devices and sensor systems (i.e. Bio-sensing) for clinical research and health monitoring. Wearable devices, installed with variable resistance bend sensors, enable applications for human posture recognition and motion capture by recovering human joint bend angles. Some wearable sensor systems provide real-time feedback including chemical information such as monitoring potassium or lactic acid levels through their sweat or saliva. For example, without using a needle, a sensor system can gauge someone’s blood glucose level that would help for persons who suffer from diabetes. The next generation of these E-skin sensor systems (i.e. glucose-measuring tattoo) are not ready yet to market, but many scientists are working on these technologies worldwide.

More information about Wearable Medical devices and sensor systems:

Heat and motion-powered wearable electronics for improved health – CES 2015

UC San Diego Researchers Develop Next Generation of Wearable Medical Devices

Monitor Your Health with Electronic skin!

The benefits of both wearable devices and sensor systems are providing significant assistance for daily living, monitoring of persons with disabilities, seniors, infants, or patients, and allowing the early detection of potential life-threatening events. However, some people who would benefit from wearing a medical device or sensors may not willingly wear them. A few of other challenges are how to control the user’s privacy and security while wearing it.

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Self-driving cars (Autonomous cars)

Most people have wished to avoid hectic driving experiences and dream about a self-driving car. Traveling is one of the challenges for persons with disabilities or the elderly. Some of them may have never driven a car. Others may have been forced to give up driving. Autonomous cars (self-driving cars) could help persons with disabilities to expand their transportation options in the future.

Since the first self-sufficient cars appeared in the 1980s, automobile manufactures have been working on prototypes. The main manufactures include Google, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Nissan, and Volvo. You might have seen a Google self-driving car on Youtube a few years ago (the YouTube video links are at the bottom of this blog.)

Steve Mahan & a Google self-driving car (2012)

Steve Mahan & a Google self-driving car (2012)

Today Mercedes and Audi have tested speed and long distance driving in both Europe and US. British-based auto-firm Delphi has completed a trip from coast-to-coast (San Francisco to New York – 3500 miles) with its self-driving car this year. Self-driving vehicles may become officially available to public by 2020 (Wikipedia).

Self-Driving Car Completes Drive Across America 99% Autonomously (March 2015)

Autonomous driving cars use a combination of cameras, laser and radar, sensors, maps, GPS, high-end microprocessors, and software to mimic human-like decisions such as parking, driving through congested areas, and traffic. Some designs have touch-sensitive sensors that monitor the driver to keep his hands on the wheel periodically.

Manufacturers still face challenges and need to clear hurdles of their self-driving car designs such as driving in hazardous road conditions (heavy rain and snow), navigating in a congested parking lot, protecting the car’s software from computer glitches and hackers, and distinguishing between police officers or pedestrians. It may be necessary to establish additional traffic regulations and smart-road infrastructure standards, such as systems that can relay traffic and accident data in real time. On the other hand, most of automobile accidents are based on human errors. According to an article appeared on Wall Street Journal (March 2015), a new report by a consulting firm McKinsey & Co states that self-driving vehicles could eliminate 90% of all auto accidents in the U.S.; prevent up to $190 billion in damages and health-costs annually and save thousands of lives.

For persons with disabilities, they may have challenges in accessibility to get in-and-out of a self-driving car, the limited space for a wheelchair, and the identification and location to unfamiliar places. For example, if a self-driving car needs to adjust a regular drop-off location to avoid a new construction site, which may appear overnight, the unexpected changes will create challenges for persons with disabilities (i.e. Blind). I hope that manufacturers will continue their designs with handicapped drivers in mind (i.e. accessibility to the car or a space for a wheelchair user or various prompt options). A paratransit system could implement including self-driving cars as an individual or a shared-ride transportation to provide a door-to-door service for the handicapped (i.e. MetroAccess). Then self-driving cars will make transportation available to more handicapped persons and reduce the waiting time for each rider. In addition, self-driving cars can expand more employment opportunities for disabled and those who live a far distance away.

Here are a few  more videos about self-driving cars from YouTube.

Google Self-Driving Car Test: Steve Mahan (Audio Described) – published May 2012

A First Drive Google self-driving car project – published May 2014

CES 2015 Trying to crash in a self-parking BMW – published January 2015

AUDI RS7 NO DRIVER 149mph – published January 2015

Mercedes Self Driving Future Truck test – published January 2015

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Mounting systems and holders

Mobile devices such as iOS and Android phones and tablets have become a necessity in our daily activities. These portable devices are popular among wheelchair users as well, but some users with limited hand dexterity face challenges to use their mobile devices at home as well as when they travel.

You may be familiar with the mounting systems or accessories from Enablemart, Ablenet and RJ Cooper (Click each company name to find more information about their products). These products help mobile users with limited hand dexterity to access a computer or mobile devices. Their products can cost anywhere from $130 and $380.

If you are looking for a less expensive holder for a cellphone or a tablet, you may be able to use the following options. A product called CellHandle, can help holding a cell phone or can be used as a kick stand.   It uses a rotatable, removable clip with Velcro, which helps a user prevent dropping a phone. The company also offers a product called e-Handle for small tablet and iPad Mini. These products cost about $10 to $20.

CellHandle and E-Handle

CellHandle and E-Handle

Another company, LabWorks offers similar holders. Here is one of the LabWorks products ($35).

LabWorks Tabletholder1

LabWorks Tablet holder

If you are looking for an inexpensive mounting system, you may find this iPad/Smart phone holder interesting. The mounting system or holder’s costs about $70. You can find more information about the cost and warranty at: iPad/Cellphone holder –


Wheelchair88 iPad / Smartphone holder for Wheelchair

A video 1: how to install a Wheelchair88 holder to a wheelchair.

A video 2: how to attach an iPad to the holder.

The following product is not a mounting system for mobile devices but for umbrellas. You may find the following mounting holder mount useful when you or a wheelchair user would like to go out in a rainy day.

Sinuote umbrella holders for bike, wheelchair, and stroller

Sinuote umbrella holders for bike, wheelchair, and stroller

Sinuote Umbrella Connector Holder for bike, wheelchair, and stroller ($10.25)

These mounting systems and holders help persons with disabilities reduce fatigue while using devices or making technologies accessible to them so that they can expand their daily activities.

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YouTube Kids app

YouTube Kids is a free app from Google.  This YouTube Kids app includes age-appropriate videos, popular children channels, and playlists. A few examples of programming playlists are from Sesame Street, POCOYO, LEGO, Little Baby Bum, EvanTube, Stampylonghead, and more. In addition, the app also features kid-friendly educational content for older children from many resources (i.e. TED-Ed). The settings for parents include options to turn on or off background music, Search options, and a built-in timer to stop playing or limit the length of activities. These settings are helpful so that you do not need to search videos randomly and narrow the purpose the activities. The navigation buttons include Recommended, Shows, Music, Learning, and Explore.

YouTube Navigation buttons

YouTube Navigation buttons

Sesame St / Ted Ed

Examples: Sesame Street / Ted Ed screens

I think this app can be used not only among parents at home, but also teachers to create activities for their students in classrooms. For example, by using children favorite characters and scenes in the app, children can create their own stories as shown in the YouTube video below.

This app is available for both Android and IOS devices.

YouTube kids free app for Android devices.
YouTube Kids from App for IOS devices:


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Verbally (text-based AAC app)

Many app developers have been creating AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) apps and updating the features. Augmentative communication manufacturers such as DynaVox and Tobi ATI offer apps (from free to a couple hundred dollars) vs their hardware AAC devices which can cost thousands of dollars. These expensive devices are designed for individuals with complex communication needs, but inexpensive or free apps are still great for using as basic usage or evaluation as well as getting familiar with augmentative communication equipment. Among some of free apps, For this blog, I picked a text-based AAC app called Verbally, which has been on the market for several years.

Verbally is an app for iPad offered in a free version and an upgrade version is available for $99. It is a text based AAC app (Text to speech) so it is useful for non-verbal individuals who can read and spell, but the app can be useful for teaching how to read or write simple words and sentences. The company website states that Verbally is an invaluable communication aid for people with apraxia, ALS, stroke, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s, or muscular dystrophy.

When you download this free app, you will see this image with instructions so you can get started right away. This is very nice because you can use it as a quick reference guide by taking a screen capture on your iPad and save it for later use. (Just a note: take a screenshot with your iPad, simply press the Home and Sleep/Wake (Power) buttons at the same time.)

Verbally-Qwerty Keyboard

Verbally-Qwerty Keyboard

From the settings, you can change the keyboard layout to Horizontal:Qwerty(shown above), Left-Handed: ABCD, and Right-Handed:ABCD (shown below). The free version comes with two voice settings (Rosie and Dave), but you can purchase other voices.

Verbally-LeftHanded keyboard

Verbally Left-Handed keyboard

Verbally Right-Handed keyboard

Verbally Right-Handed keyboard

This app offers easy access to the most commonly spoken words and phrases from its tabs. For example, you can select phrases such as “How are you?” or “Nice to see you” from the Phases tab. You can also construct a sentence from the Words tab by pressing each word.  For example, you press; I, need, help, and press the Speak button, then you hear the speech output, “I need help”.

The Verbally app also provides a word prediction feature to help your typing independently.  With the Paid version, you can create and save your favorite phrases and organize your favorites into your own customized categories based on location, audience, and situation.

I found the free Verbally app useful as a simple communication tool if you do not need to customize and save a large set of communication categories or do not need complex communication in various environments. You can find more information at the website, Verbally or download the free app from App store.

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