Assistive Tech & Products

Disability and gadgets: low-cost robotic hands could wave in the future

Robert Wemyss is the IT guru at Really Useful Stuff. RUS is delighted to join in with Disability Horizons to offer a monthly roundup of all things tech and gadget. We will take a quick look at new ideas on the horizon as well as great new inventions already on the market that make life easier and a lot more fun.


Nesta and Google know the power of investing in a great idea that is currently just a small start-up enterprise but has the vision to change the world. With the right seed funding, a great idea can become a market reality. That is exactly what the technology4good awards and Nestas Inclusive technology prize are designed to do. The Inclusive Technology Prize seeks to inspire innovations in assistive technology. The Prize is now moving into its final stage and we take a look at some of our favourites that we think are fantastic gadgets and gizmos for the future.

3D Handshake

There are an estimated 11.4 million hand amputees worldwide. But Bionic limbs can cost anything from £20,000 to £80,000, and can take up to three months to make. That makes getting a decent prosthetic unaffordable for many. Open Bionics offer a bionic hand for £1,000, and by using 3D scanning, modelling and printing, it can be created in just five days. This is definitely the world’s most cool advanced 3D Printed Robotic Hand

Now that is a handy idea!

Open Sesame

The Sesame Phone App is the world’s first completely touch-free smartphone, designed by and for people with disabilities. You make head movements, the camera tracks your movements and the App algorithm does something clever with numbers- and the phone responds by letting you control an on screen cursor with just head movements. Voice control is integrated to provide a truly hands-free experience for accessing the device. To turn the phone on just say “Open Sesame” and it will wake up and start tracking you.

Everywhere can have an address

Not everyone has an address! This is frustrating and costly in developed nations; and in developing nations this is life-threatening and growth limiting. what3words is a unique combination of just 3 words that identifies a 3mx3m square, anywhere on the planet.

It’s far more accurate than a postal address and it’s much easier to remember, use and share, than a set of coordinates. Better addressing improves customer experience, delivers business efficiencies, drives growth and helps the social and economic development of countries.

Around 75% of the world suffers from inadequate addressing systems – around 4 billion people. An address means that people can receive vital deliveries and aid, disease can be reported and basic human rights can be exercised, all because they have a simple way to communicate where they live. This App has divided the entire planet into 3m squares and assigned a random 3 word sequence to each square. Using this cool system means that you can locate anywhere in the world anytime to a 3 meter accuracy.

Skoog music is easy music
Free the musician inside with the easy-to-play instrument made for everyone. The Skoog is not a typical instrument. It’s like a big band bundled into one squeezable box. Just plug it into your computer’s USB port and play. Whatever your musical skills or physical ability, the Skoog software allows you to customise the instrument’s sensitivity to suit your playing style, which means that anyone can rock out to their favourite tunes, or use programs like GarageBand to open up a new world of amazing music and sound.

PlanHub is a new, customisable platform designed to enable a disabled person to have a voice. By linking emergency information, plans, administration and services into a single, online location, opened using a Near Field Communication Chip accessed via a reader or mobile with NFC, users can decide what information the system holds about them, and who they want to be able to see it.

Supportspace is a multi-platform application that connects Personal Care Budget recipients with support workers and the Social Services agency that administers funding. The makers believe this will be a great empowering tool for disabled persons and a time and money saving device for statutory authorities.

The Inclusive Technology prize fund runs every year, so if you have an idea – start planning now for a chance to be next year’s winning entry!

By Robert Wemyss

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