Technology has always existed to help make our lives better and easier, but ‘future tech’ has received something of a bad reputation of late, primarily due to scaremongering surrounding the implications of artificial intelligence. The machines are not, however, here to take our jobs, they are here to help us. From self-driving cars and high-tech mobility solutions for those with limited physical functionality to 3D printers that can create replacement body organs, technology is starting to positively impact the lives of those living with disabilities. Here, we’ll put the microscope on just a few of the most exciting examples of tech that might have been seen as the stuff of science fiction just a few years ago, but is not tantalisingly within our grasp.
Wheelchairs that Climb Stairs
There can be nothing more cumbersome than trying to manoeuvre a wheelchair up a flight of stairs, but there is a model in development that balances itself perfectly, allowing for effective stair traversal. It’s just a student project now, but the tech is solid and the concept looks very encouraging.
The Internet of Things
Connected appliances and connected homes allow disabled users to control their homes through speech recognition, which poses significant potential when it comes to helping them live comfortably and independently. With a connected smart house installed, a user could control the lights, the heating, the air conditioning, the stereo and the television from the comfort of the sofa using voice commands and connected platforms such as Amazon Alexa. The future isn’t just around the corner in this regards – it’s already here!
Cars for the Blind
The advent of self-driving cars should be incredibly exciting for disabled drivers, particularly those that are sight-impaired. There is also a car in development by one Dennis Hong, which uses sensory feedback to allow blind people to drive themselves without the need for AI. Of course, it’s a very ambitious project that’s a few years away from becoming a reality, but it’s certainly exciting.
For many years, if wheelchair-bound individuals wanted to travel longer distances, they were forced to rely on mobility scooters that were unsightly and unwieldy. The technology behind these vehicles, not to mention their designs, has thankfully come on leaps and bounds in recent years. From the Honda Wander Walker, which includes in-built satellite navigation and a hidden SOS button, to the Hitachi self-driving mobility scooter, which boasts a fully enclosed body, there are plenty of forward-thinking designs currently in the works. Even models that already exist allow for greater flexibility (folding scooters, for example).
Of course, perhaps the technology that possesses the most obvious potential for assistive tech is the humble smartphone. Almost all of us have one and it can’t be denied that they open up a world of possibilities for disabled tech users. Pair them with some of the amazing tech mentioned above and the future looks very bright indeed.