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Tech lets wheelchair-bound walk again

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Technology isn’t always about the latest smartphone or newest app. LIRON SEGEV discovers from two Israeli innovations, that it also has a lot to do with helping disabled people perform everyday tasks that many of us take for granted.

When we think of technology, we think of cool gadgets or the newest app. While these are great examples of technology, there are two innovations from Israel recently that are using technology to help those in need. An app to help blind people see and a harness to help wheelchair bound children take their first steps.

Researchers at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem have come up with a way to help blind people “see” objects around them. EyeMusic is an app that is able to capture what it sees and then it translate that images into music and pitched sounds. The music is interpreted by the users who is able to “hear” what he “sees” as the system conveys information about colours, shapes and the location of objects in the world.

According to Professor Amir Amedi, Head of the Center for Human Perception and Cognition at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, there are millions of neurons in the brain that are associated with sight, and in cases where people become blind or are born blind, these neurons adapt to help the person function. With the Sensory Substitution method, a camera is able to capture images and the algorithms and translate those shapes into sounds. A visually impaired or a blind person is able to master the system within hours of training as they are taught how to understand the pitch and how it represents the objects and their locations and how musical instruments represent colours.

The system can be seen in action below:

Walking for the first time

As a parent, there can be no worse news than hearing that there is something “not right” with your child. When Debby Elnatan was told that her child would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair one can only imagine what was going through her head.

Fortunately, Debby was not content in just accepting that her child will never walk and she spent several years in developing a harness system that allowed her and her child, Rotem, to walk together. A simple activity that millions take for granted everyday.

The Firefly Upsee Harness was born. It is a harness that allows parents to strap their disabled children into and stand and walk together. The harness is designed so that when the parent takes a step, so does the child, and they move in unison.

On the of 7 March 2014, the Upsee became available for sale on the website. However, due to the unexpected massive amount of traffic the site could simply not cope with demands from around the word. Firefly explained on their Facebook page:

The harness is made for kids between the ages of 3 and 8 and there is such a demand for the product that Debby might be extending the range for older kids.

For more info check out the website and there is a second product – GoTo Seat – that lets kids sit up and participate in family activities by being able to sit upright anywhere and not just in special chairs.

The harness costs $540 and has to be one the most rewarding money a parent could spend. Taking a walk with their child for the first time has to be priceless.

* Image from Shutterstock.com

* Follow Liron Segev, aka The Techie Guy, on his blog at thetechieguy.com, or on Twitter at @Liron_Segev

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