Software apps and online services
I am a quadriplegic maker who subsides on Social Security and disability while residing with my retired parents on our rural family farm. Still trying to harness the power of broadband and a humble soldering iron to keep on keeping on and be all the quadriplegic I can be! As a quadriplegic trying to live as "normal" of a life as possible, given the constraints of my body and technology, voice interaction has become invaluable in recent years.
One of my favorite sites and pastime nowadays is Hackster.io, and I have worked on entries to a number of different contests on their site, which has both given me invaluable learning opportunities and hands-on experience with a variety of hardware and platforms. A recent project of mine that involved voice was with the matrix creator, as lately I have become more concerned about how much privacy I'm giving up to be able to interact with my surroundings more efficiently. The Matrix Creator along with the Snips AI platform offered a perfect and unique opportunity to reproduce the results of the big-name voice automation platforms but without the loss of security or privacy. Another earlier project I worked on featured one of the most innovative and interesting devices I've had the pleasure of working on in the last decade: the Walabot! But I'll talk more about that in a bit. Aside from the Hackster related contests and hardware,I have previous experience in creating Alexa skills as well as Arduino hardware and coding, along with years of computer and electronics tinkering, making, and repairing.
For my entry into the "Living in Motion" contest, I was originally going to introduce the concept of both a health and security-conscious voice home automation Hub, distinguished by the incorporation of both controls for home mobility equipment such as Hoyer Lifts and hospital beds, but especially by integration with the Walabot sensor. This key piece of technology would enable both the security of loved ones and caretakers being able to ensure that a person was still breathing, hadn't fallen out of bed, etc. but also preserve the privacy and dignity of the patient.
My earlier prototypes integrated the Walabot with the raspberry pi/matrix creator. The further I progressed with the project, however, the more I begin to see the limits in working with just one ecosystem, whether it be Amazon, Google, or Snips. While I can still very much demonstrate a central device such as I described, I do believe a modular hardware or software framework might be more versatile as well as increase opportunities for licensing. Ultimately, I would like to create not just a single device, but rather a whole home ecosystem or framework (say: "AARP Approved" or "AARP Compatible") in which consumers can be assured not only of the quality and reliability of the device but of ease-of-use as well.
One of the main distinguishing features of my solution from existing hardware on the market is that it leverages the power and versatility of voice automation for those to those of us to whom the inability to get to a cell phone or even hit a button could truly be a life or death issue. To further enable independence and increase the mobility of individuals such as myself, I would specifically use the infrared capabilities of the platform to voice-enable my Hoyer Lift, giving the ability to get in and out of bed with the spoken word!
What truly elevates my solution above the rest is the incorporation of the Walabot with existing voice automation frameworks to create what I call the Walla-Abled home.
While the complete 'Walla-Abled' Home would offer almost too many advantages to list here, a few which immediately spring to mind are:
-The ability to have an always-on, yet unobtrusive and noninvasive “Eye-in-the-Sky” keeping watch for preprogrammed alert scenarios such as falling out of a wheelchair or hospital bed and responding with an automated alert to loved ones or caregivers
-The same always-on watchfulness becomes even more lifesaving when fine-tuned enough to be able to be aware of an individual’s breathing patterns within the room, with the ability to alert in cases such as severe sleep apnea, or even choking.
-A sedentary and movement reminder for wheelchair-bound and other lesser abled folk to help remind to change position every 30 minutes or so to help prevent the forming of pressure sores, as well as helping to maintain some level of physical activity
-While Alexa alone is an invaluable assistant, the addition of a Walabot allows gestures and position in 3-D space to be incorporated into the decision-making as well. For example, a person in a wheelchair could ask Alexa to open a door, and the door could be opened electronically. But with the inclusion of the Walabot, the system could be intelligent enough to wait to open the door until the person was close and intelligent enough to keep it open until they were through.
-One of the greatest personal joys of many disabled and elderly people is that of pet ownership. This can be a challenging and difficult situation, but far less so with the help of Alexa and a Walabot. If your puppy has a particular “potty” area, Walabot not only keeps guard while your back is turned, it can tell you if unexpected matter appears where it shouldn’t, as well as keeping an eye on food and water levels once properly calibrated.
-Another prime example of both an instant short-term fix and an absolutely vital long-term tool would be the use of the developer model of the Walabot (with its short-range and 3-D imaging capabilities) to assist wheelchair users and others who have to sit for a long period of time. For both groups of people, but most especially for those disabled who no longer have sensation, pressure sores can be the bane of one’s existence. The death of one of my personal heroes and a true Superman of our modern times, Christopher Reeve, was a direct result of a pressure sore. How many lives could be saved, not to mention made more pain-free, with a simple addition of the Walabot and its 3-D imaging capabilities to every physical therapy rehab department, or even under the seat of every individual unable to move their body in a wheelchair, from myself to the venerable Prof. Hawking!
Here's a demonstration of how the Walabot is so sensitive it can even see whether or not you've stopped breathing
The Walabot will check to ensure there is still breath detected and reply either with an affirmation or warning!
For my ultimate version of this project, I envisioned incorporating the fantastically ahead of its time idea: "People and Fall Detection with Walabot" that was previously Made by Fezza Haider and George Shaker on Hackster, (https://www.hackster.io/42748/people-and-fall-detection-with-walabot-8db4aa) but due to hardware and times constraints. I was only able to get Alexa to give an alert if the Walabot senses that I stop breathing for an extended period of time.
In addition to some of the reactive examples here, the truly exciting potential of the combination of Voice and home automation with the Walabot is in its virtually unlimited expandability and inclusivity. Not only the potential to save lives, but the potential to make every day of someone’s life richer and fuller by giving them back their independence and dignity, as well as the joy that comes with the simpler pleasures. Nothing says “We’re living in the Future and it’s Awesome!” Like a man without thumbs being able to play catch with his dog. (with a little help from a 3-D printed robotic Arduino arm and his friends at Walabot!)