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Wireless hand controller alleviates dexterity problems

Health & Medical

A hand controller designed to help people with dexterity issues perform daily household functions is being commercialised in South Australia.

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The i-boll, roughly the size of a junior soccer ball, links to a smartphone app to connect with other devices and uses the smartphone’s built-in accelerometer to track movement.

The wireless device is operated with two hands and aims to help people living with cerebral palsy, arthritis, those recovering from a stroke and the elderly to operate smart devices and household appliances.

Designed in a collaboration between Flinders University, University of South Australia and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, the project has involved biomedical engineers, industrial designers, neuroscientists, paediatricians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and rehabilitation experts,

In December, a licensing deal was reached for the i-boll to be commercialised by disabilities support provider Novita.

It will be a flagship technology for the not -for-profit organisation’s assistive technology division. The first units are expected to be on the shelf in 2019.

The product evolved from Orby, an orb-shaped gaming system developed by the team in 2014 to improve hand function for children living with cerebral palsy.

Lead researcher David Hobbs said testing was underway with a number of focus groups to determine the best functionality for i-boll.

He said the device could potentially be used as a smart remote for tasks ranging from switching on lights, starting the microwave, using computers or watching TV provided that the devices were compatible and connected via Wi-fi or Bluetooth.

“Rather than just being a way to control computer games it is actually a way to control what people want to control and that’s what some of the testing going on right now is determining,” the Flinders University researcher said.

“It’s about giving people another way of accessing something that they might not be able to do at the moment.

“It could be how they control their TV, it could be the way they control their computer because they lack fine finger control due to ageing or other impairments.”

Hobbs said the designers had also built in technological longevity, so the i-boll would interface with future versions of mobile devices.

“The i-boll connects with most mobile smart devices that users are already familiar with, making it both highly accessible and cost effective,” Mr Hobbs said.

The intuitive design allows the device to be customised to suit a users’ specific hand impairment such as arthritis, stroke or cerebral palsy, he said.

Hobbs said there had already been interest in the project from Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

He said Novita was in talks with potential manufacturers in South Australia.

The University of South Australia has led the commercialisation of i-boll.

UniSA Ventures CEO Dr Stephen Rodda said the technology was a strong example of how local universities and industries could collaborate to benefit society and the local economy.

“This has been an extremely productive research and development collaboration and we look forward to Novita delivering the i-boll to market,” he said.

Novita’s General Manager of Assistive Technology Mark Stewart said the organisation was excited to bring the innovative device to market globally.

“i-boll has the potential to really change millions of people’s lives worldwide and our goal is to continue to innovate to do just that,” he said.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story. Copied to Clipboard

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