Category: Healthcare, Assistive Technology,
Organization name: Zyrobotics, LLC
Launched Date: 2014-09-13
Who has created it: Johnetta MacCalla
Problem statement and how the Accessible Innovation solves the problem.
General access to technology for individuals with motor impairments is currently accomplished through Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices found in the assistive technology domain. There are two types of AAC that currently exist: unaided and aided. Unaided types of devices consist of using "natural communication" mechanisms such as pointing or eye gazing while aided forms require an external device such as a communication board or a computer.
Physical devices that provide access to aided AAC for individuals usually fall into the category of joystick or switch, with the former allowing multidirectional movement as well as option selection and the latter only allowing selection. Switch types of devices range from hand switches, head switches, foot switches, mouth switches, and even switches that can detect muscle movement. Although these current devices can directly be plugged into traditional computing platforms, they are not directly integrated with the various mobile computing platforms that exist such as tablets, smartphones, and other touch-screen devices.
Yet, recent trends indicate traditional desktop/laptop PC sales are constantly declining while, at the same time, mobile device< usage is steadily increasing. Unfortunately, this trend means there is an entire demographic of individuals, those with mild to severe motor limitations, who will have difficulties in integrating fully into mainstream society. As the baby-boomer generation continues to age, the number of veterans with limitations in motor abilities increases, and the number of children diagnosed with disabilities continues to grow, the corresponding numbers of individuals with reduced access to everyday activities of living will inevitably grow.
The problem - a growing decline in an individual’s freedom to operate at their full capacity as we continue to evolve into a touch-based technically reliant society. Our TabAccess Bluetooth switch interface was thus developed to provide an alternative input interface for increasing access to tablet-based applications for individuals that have difficulties affecting the common pinch and swipe gestures required for touchscreen-based interaction. It enables access to both custom as well as off-the-shelf Apps available on both Android and iOS tablets. This device, coupled with a supporting tablet App software library, enables individuals access to the growing world of applications made available on tablet-based computing platforms.
Such applications range from communication software for autistic children, educational apps for children with special needs, to apps for general use such as Internet, Kindle, and YouTube. Our assistive interface can provide unlimited potential for access to tablet-based Apps that could assist such individuals in their daily lives.
Tell us who is the target audience and how the accessible innovation will benefit them. Please specify the different target audiences groups and provide numbers and statistics of your current clients as well as what is the potential number of people that the innovation can impact and empower:
Due to the pervasiveness of touchscreen mobile devices and their ease-of-use, the emergence of tablet-based applications (Apps) is fast growing. The resulting dilemma though is that with the introduction of the mobile device itself, there is an entire population of individuals that become excluded. Unfortunately, these touch-based tools are developed assuming an individual is capable of 'touching' a specific small region with appropriate intensity and timing (i.e. effecting press and swipe gestures). This assumption does not generally hold true when considering individuals with limitation in motor skills, such as observed in adults and children living with cerebral palsy or recovering from traumatic brain injury.
The fact that over 3 million individuals in the US have a disability in their hands and/or forearms validates that there is a large demographic of individuals that are being overlooked by the introduction of mobile devices into mainstream society. Specifically, in the US assistive technologies market, the daily living aids segment was valued at $4B in 2011. It is estimated that this number will increase when the “baby-boomer” generation reaches retirement age. For this target demogragaphic, TabAccess facilitates access by enabling switch control of a larger spectrum of apps such as e-books, text messaging, and gaming products to ensure the benefits from interactive communication are open to as wide a range of individuals as possible. With TabAccess, tablets become more accessible for adults and children with limited motor skills. Already, TabAccess is being utilized at a number of clinics, rehabilitation hospitals, and within special education classrooms nationwide.
How is the accessible innovative solution different from current practices or ways of solving the problem?
Although the current assistive technology market has provided speech, hearing, and visual aids using tablet devices, the market has overlooked the large populace that has difficulty using the touchscreen interface. Our alternative interface, coupled with our supporting tablet App software library, can provide unlimited potential for the development of tablet-based Apps that could assist such individuals in their daily lives.
How is the accessible innovative solution new, different or unique in terms of the technology or implementation?
Zyrobotics focus is on providing users an integrated experience. We offer a patented product (TabAccess) that is small, lightweight, and flexible. Our dimensions, smaller than all of the competitors, enables the device to be used in any scenario without being intrusive – from the home-environment, to mounting on a wheelchair, to inclusion in the workplace. The few wireless input devices that currently exist in the marketplace for tablets are designed primarily for the iPad, only enable control of specific custom developed Apps, or do not allow integration of access devices already utilized by the user (e.g. joystick/headswitches used for wheelchair control, puff-n-sip for computer access).
How do you get the innovative solution to reach the target audience? Please elaborate on the your go to market strategy and which geographies do you currently work in and what are your future plans for marketing your innovation.
We have determined that influencers can be efficiently reached through a number of venues, including: Conferences, trade shows, and professional meetings, Ads on journals, magazines, and support group websites, and through Free education and consultation on the new technology. In addition, we employ an active Social Media strategy that leverages the Internet. With our initial target market, the Zyrobotics’ consumer falls into specific segments that include:
- Industry/ Healthcare
- Individual Families
- School Districts
- Trade Shows/ Conferences
- 3rd Party Retail/ Online & Physical
What is the potential impact of the innovative solution on the lives of the target audience? Please elaborate by providing statistics of the current impact and the potential impact.
A World Health Organization study shows that there are over 650 million people worldwide living with a disability, with an additional 93 million children with disabilities. In the U.S. this number equals 54.4 million. These same people with disabilities in the United States control an aggregate annual income of about $1 trillion. Specifically, in the US assistive technologies market, the daily living aids segment was valued at $4B in 2011, with a forecast value of $55 billion by 2016.
Stories of how the Innovation has touched lives.
- "4 yr old boy with very low muscle weakness due to a genetic disorder. The device was easy to use ... He responded with purposeful movement to activate the switch. This is a big deal as he generally does not attempt to physically interact much with toys, screens, technology, etc. Mom became tearful when she saw him trying (it was pretty cool!)" - Early Intervention & Behavior Specialist
- "Prior to the creation of this device, it was difficult to use a variety of technology and Apps with this population due in large part to the problem of the children being able to successfully access the technology in a suitable manner." - Speech and Language Pathologist
- “5 year old girl with severe cerebral Palsy … uses a wheelchair and has difficulty with fine motor control. However, she can isolate her pointer finger but has difficulty because of the tome in her upper extremities. The switch interface was perfect for her … simple to get started and stayed connected during use of the ipad. The Bluetooth component was great because there were not wires involved and mounting the ipad to ease her access was much easier“ - Early Intervention & Behavior Specialist
- “Today I used the controller with a boy who has cerebral palsy. He has very limited movements. I have been able to get him to activate a switch using his head. It has been difficult to use the computer or iPad not only because of his limited movements but also because he tends to look up and to the left. Previously when we have done the computer with a switch he didn't really see what he activated. I was able to use the iPad today and have him use the switch thanks to the TabAccess. I was able to hold the iPad up to where his gaze is so he can see what he has activated. He was excited to be using an iPad with just a switch! Thanks to this interface he was successful and independent.” - - Early Intervention & Behavioral Therapist