Carolyn Pioro used to be a trapeze performer for a Toronto-based circus. But, in 2005, she was tragically and terribly injured during training when she fell 40 feet and a landed badly on the safety net, severing her spinal cord. With her trapeze career cut short, she enrolled at Centennial College in a contemporary journalism program. She wanted to shoot a photo essay on the performance she loved, but was unable to find an accessible camera option that fit her needs. So, Taras Slawnych stepped in to create one for her.
Slawnych is maker, and the visual editor for the Toronto’s Star newspaper. He heard about Pioro’s situation from Star’s photographer Steve Russell, who is a friend of Pioro’s professor Tyler Anderson. Slawnych figured he could come up with a way for Pioro to snap photos, and set out to build it. Because Pioro is quadriplegic, the camera needed to be completely hands free — not only the shutter release, but also panning and tilting.
The device Slawnych came up with sits inside a 3D-printed enclosure attached to Pioro’s wheelchair. It takes the 24V battery power from the wheelchair and steps it down to 12V to power the components. Those are an Arduino, servos, and microphone. By interpreting Pioro’s voice commands, the device can pan, tilt, and trigger the camera so she can shoot all the photos she likes on her own. Slawnych even took the device to Canon Canada, who has expressed interest in expanding the design to include zoom functionality.