At the world’s biggest gadget show, there were a few projects that stood out for me. Not because they were the biggest, baddest or even the most brightly-coloured, but because they offered simple, practical solutions for those who need them most. This is technology that addresses the realities of disability, improves quality of life, and promises accessibility for all. Here’s a quick round-up of the tech that cares, as seen at CES 2018.
We were delighted to welcome self-driving shuttle bus Olli back to CES. This year, he has a new and exciting mission: ‘Autonomous for all of us’. The #Accessible Olli project is something we’re very proud of at IBM. It’s the culmination of a crowd-sourced effort to help those with mobility difficulties get around more easily.
IBM joined the Consumer Technology Association Foundation, Local Motors and innovators all over the world to develop an autonomous solution to transportation. The result could be life-changing for the 15 percent of us who are living with disabilities. And when you consider that this figure rises to 25 percent for those aged 50 and over, the possibilities are even further-reaching. This blog has the full story.
#AccessibleOlli on the Las Vegas Convention Center floor at this year’s CES
Xenoma e-skin pajamas
Japanese smart apparel firm Xenoma displayed a prototype pair of smart ‘e-skin pajamas’ for hospital patients at CES. The main focus is on dementia patients, who need close observation but might be understandably distressed by being the focus of constant attention, or worse, confined to their rooms. Instead, these pajamas can do part of the observation work themselves.
They’re fitted with cloth sensors, customized to interpret specific feedback in order to monitor movement and vital signs. For example, those on the trouser hips and legs are motion-sensors, while sensors on the shirt monitor breathing. If a patient is distressed, unmoving or agitated, the pajama sensors will relay that information to hospital personnel.
Most importantly, the sensors are unobtrusive, and don’t negatively impact the wearer’s comfort. They can also survive a washing machine, making them more or less as hardy as regular clothing. They’re not in general use yet, though there’s a clinical trial planned with a (unannounced) hospital in Germany.
UV Sense: the false fingernail that detects sun damage
Also on show was a rather interesting offering from L’Oréal: the UV Sense. This diminutive UV sensor is small enough to wear on a fingernail, and connects to a smartphone through contactless chip. It detects ultra violet rays and sends an alert to the wearer’s smartphone when they’ve been out in the sun for too long.
A similar product, in the form of a patch, has already had positive results. The company reported that 34 percent of those who wore the patch applied sunscreen more frequently than they would have done without it. The UV Sense should be available in the UK in 2019, priced at £30 (around $ 40.)
UV Sense: Photo courtesy of http://www.lorealusa.com/media/press-releases/2018/january/uv-sense
SignAll: the world’s first automated sign language translator
This is one of my favourites: an automated sign language translation solution from SignAll, that bridges the communication gap between deaf and hearing people. It uses computer vision and Natural Language Processing to track hand gestures, and convert them to English text displayed onscreen. The cool thing about this solution is that is doesn’t require expensive, fancy hardware. Ordinary web cams and a bog-standard PC will do, though you will need a depth sensor too. The depth sensor goes in front of the person signing at chest height, while cameras surround them. They all sync up to a PC that processes the images taken from different angles to produce a translation in close to real time.
The Internet of Caring Things: beyond CES 2018
Of course, CES 2018 isn’t the only place to find caring technology initiatives. At IBM we’re always looking for ways to improve people’s quality of life with the help of technology. Recently, we’ve been investigating how the Internet of Things can aid an aging population. Take a look at this piece to discover more.
Another example of IBM’s work in healthcare is our research with Melanoma Institute Australia. Together, we’re using cognitive technology to analyse dermatological images of skin, to identify specific clinical patterns in the early stages of melanoma. We hope that this important work will help clinicians understand skin cancer better and reduce unnecessary biopsies. You can read more about this ongoing effort in our press release, or visit our website to learn about our wider work in healthcare.