There are over 12.2 million people with a limiting long-term illness or impairment in Britain, many of whom rely on assisted living technologies for their everyday lives. Yet, leaps in technological development have had a limited impact on R&D of assistive aids.
Nesta’s Inclusive Technology Prize is a response to this gap and aims to incentivise technological innovation from individuals and small businesses to improve or develop assistive living aids, adaptations, products and systems that will make a real difference to the lives of disabled people. We are especially keen on supporting ideas from disabled innovators with first-hand experience of the urgent need for these technologies.
Selected from over 200 entries, the ten finalists are currently tweaking and testing their prototypes over six months, including user impact testing. They’re doing a great job of keeping us informed on progress, and their blogs can be read in full on the IT website. Below is a summary of their current progress in developing assistive technologies for the chance to be awarded £50,000 and have a significant impact on millions of lives.
OpenBionics has had an excellent spree of awareness-raising, thanks to winning the 2015 UK James Dyson Award for innovative engineering for the Bionic Hands and a video story from news outlet Vocativ which has received 25 million views on Facebook. The team has also been focused on developing bionics for children and testing the global healthcare market, spending some time with doctors and prosthetists Brazil.
Evolable Walking aid kit maker Cara Design has been working with a Brunel University design student to scale up her walking kit for use in developing country settings. She has also secured a working space at the Central Research Laboratory in West London to continue her work from there.
Nimble pre-orders have been shipped to the UK and around the world, and its makers Version 22 are now waiting to hear feedback for early adopters. See photos on their Instagram. They have also been developing testing questionnaires with help from a leading market research agency to send to users and healthcare professionals.
PlanHub's team of brothers is injecting a bit of Hollywood into their development process, with actor Warwick Davis signing up to appear in the promotional video we require of all finalists. The team is also preparing for a big promotional push with loads of merchandise ready - everything from cups and t-shirts to posters, for when their website launches. They've also figured out that a good incentive for people to return lost wristbands is having a freepost address so that there's no cost to the sender.
AzuleJoe has succeeded in increasing the accessibility of its open-source communication aid by making it compatible with Microsoft PowerPoint. Users will be able to make adjustments to a template on PowerPoint and have that transformed into a fully functional speech aid, without needing to learn complex new software. The team has also been fine-tuning the internal software structure and finalising licensing issues.
HandyClix has been tweaking the design of their one-handed wheelchair seatbelt to consider differences in user strength, dexterity and tremor. At HandyClix they're also designing different attachment methods to clip the belt to the wheelchair so that it requires minimal technical knowledge. Lastly, a new 3D printer has been useful for the team in producing a few mock-ups of the different parts, which are currently undergoing user testing.
Hearing Loop Listening App's maker, Action on Hearing Loss, are developing their prototype with help from a design consultant and continually growing their volunteer testers base.
Active Hands has two products: the limb difference aid and the fine motor aid. For the former, prototype testing continues, with one user, who has no fingers on one hand, even sending in video of her using the aid to lift a heavy kettlebell. For the latter aid, further development on the wrist strap has made it more comfortable, and a 3D printed version of the clamp mechanism has been commissioned for testing.
How Do I? makers are working on their branding and taking their cue from Google to aim for simplicity. They would like their brand to be a recognised indicator of helpfulness.
Supportspace is an app to help disabled and older people to more effectively spend their personal budgets. Its maker attended this year's Manchester Central expo for the first time with a stall of his own, after many years as a spectator. He is also waiting to hear back about whether Supportspace will be included in a NHS Test Bed area, where businesses get to test their innovations to prove value for NHS uptake.