Disabled Be Heard


Promising technology coming from Israeli startup Voiceitt.



Chosen by Wall Street Journal global technology conference as an audience favorite application.



This technology will help the disabled who have trouble speaking to effectively communciate with others. 



The application translates sounds and intonation patterns into words that can be understood. 



Victims of Stroke, Parkinsons, ALS, Cerebral Palsy, and Autism may benefit from this. 



The founder of the technology himself has two siblings with Cerebral Palsy and he is driven to personally address their challenges. 



Application is expected to be released 2nd quarter 2015.



To me, it is especially encouraging when we use technology to help the disabled live a fuller and more comfortable life.



Life is tough enough on people the way it is already, so if we can help make things better for those who are disadvantaged in any way, what a great, great thing to do! 😉

A WOW Wheelchair

A WOW Wheelchair

Absolutely loved the article and video in Bloomberg Businessweek on the Tankchair.

Brad Soden makes these amazing ruggedized wheelchairs for wounded veterans and other disabled people in need of getting around some rougher terrain.

They are customized for each user and cost about $15,000 each.

They are built on tank-like treads and can go up stairs, through fields, across streams, and over snow.

“Basically, it’s get off the couch and go enjoy life!”

They are tough and can last 15-20 years!

He first made one for his wife who was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident and was having difficulty keeping up on a family camping trip.

Soden is truly inspirational–he produces these not too make money, but too help people.

“The body can’t keep up, so we’re gonna fix it.”

This is an awesome man making an extreme machine. 😉

(Source Photo: Tankchair)

Radiating Goodness

Radiating Goodness

So I met two amazing people today.

The first was a lady with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

She told me her story about how it was her 30-year anniversary this year. And she said she had been diagnosed with MS only one year after her wedding.

She almost cried when she told me that her husband had stayed with her all these years she was sick.

First, she had a nurse at home to care for her, and then when the demands were too much, she got into the nursing home and has been there since May, which she said wasn’t a long time and that it was good there.

Talking with her, I was amazed at how good an attitude she had for someone that had suffered so much and for so long. She was also an incredibly nice person and said how lovely some of the other patients looked today and that they should eat something to keep up their strength. This lady was truly inspiring.

The second lady I met was a private nurse for one of the elderly patients in the home.

She sat at lunch between the old lady she took care of and the other woman with MS.

Yet even though she was privately paid by the elderly lady, I was amazed that when she wasn’t caring for the old lady, she took the time and effort to care for the MS lady, whom she otherwise had nothing to do with.

In fact, she was alternating in feeding one and then the other. Also, making conversation with everyone else at the table asking how they were, taking pictures with her iPad mini (she found a place that sells them for only $79!) and saying how happy her patient was looking today and making her smile (even though the patient seemed unable to even speak).

It was truly amazing to see the caretaker generally caring for others, not just for the money or because it was her job, but rather because she could help and really wanted to.

I’ll tell you, there are still good people out there–some almost angels. And when you find them, it is a miraculous experience. You can almost see G-d in them. Like the physical world is just an illusion, but these eternal souls are what’s real–radiating goodness to every soul they touch. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Walking Tall Again

CNN has a video out today on this amazing new technology for paraplegics.

It is a miraculous robotic exoskeleton called the ReWalk by Argo Medical Technologies in Israel.

The inventor, Dr. Amit Goffer, is himself quadriplegic and asked a simple question, “Why is a wheelchair the only answer for those with spinal injuries?”

He challenged the status quo and now there is a way for paralyzed people to stand and walk again.

I choose this video for the blog, because I found it so immensely inspiring to see someone previously wheelchair-bound participating in a marathon in Tel Aviv this year.

The ReWalk is strapped on and has motorized joints and sensors and a battery pack.

When combined with some braces, a person has mobility again on their feet!

I cried when I saw the patient, Radi Kaiuf go over the finish line after walking 10 kilometers with the ReWalk and everyone, including the children on the sidelines, cheering for him.

Congratulation to all the researchers from the Technion University who helped make this a reality–hopefully people around the world, who are in are in need, will be able to benefit in the future and walk again.

Truly, mobility is life! 😉

Listening and Blessings

Listening and Blessings

Two reflections from this week:

1. Listen to understand:
I heard a colleague talk about the importance of listening. There wasn’t really anything new about that, except he went on to say, “Listen to understand, not to refute or resolve.” The more, I thought about this, the more brilliant I realized this was. How often do we either not really listen to the other person? And when we do listen at all, aren’t we most of the time jumping to either refute what they are saying or resolve their issue? The key though is to listen to understand. Ask questions. Get clarifications. Only once you really listen to the other person and understand what they are saying, can you begin to address the thoughts and feeling they are expressing to you.

2. G-d Blessed You:
Usually when I see people asking for help/money on the streets, they have signs–handwritten, often on cardboard or the like–that says something about their plight. Perhaps, they are homeless, lost their job, ill or disabled, have kids to support…and they are asking for your help and mercy. At the end of the sign or if you give them some change or a few dollars, they say thanks, but also “G-d bless you” in the future tense. And this is really nice to get a blessing in return for some basic charity and kindness. However, there is one poor person begging in downtown D.C., and he says it differently. His sign asks for help and says, “G-d blessed you” in the past-present tense. First, I thought maybe this was just a grammatical mistake, but then I realized what he was saying. G-d blessed you, so please give back to others. This wasn’t a thank you wish to the other person, but rather a reason that you should give to begin with. Recognize how fortunate you are (and maybe you don’t even necessarily deserve it), but G-d blessed you, so have mercy and give to others.

Hope these reflections mean something to you the way they do to me, and have a good weekend everyone!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Restoring Hearing Using Bionics

Restoring Hearing Using Bionics

A mother wrote in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about the miracle of Cochlear Implants.

Lydia Denworth described when her 2-year old son, who is deaf, got these implants and how now he is now able to attend 5th grade in a “mainstream school” and is “nearly indistinguishable from the other children.”

These implants allow her son, Alex, to have a conversation with another child about the hearing device that “can open up the world of sound and spoken language.”

Denworth states at the end of the editorial, “Moments like that make me deeply grateful for the technology.”

For me, reading this was an opportunity to go learn about the amazing bionics that has already restored hearing to 320,000 people!

While hearing aids amplify sounds and make them louder, they don’t resolve permanent damage to the inner ear.

A cochlear implant bypasses the damage by receiving sounds in a microphone, digitizing them, and converting them to electrical impulses that are sent directly via implant to the auditory nerves– bypassing damaged or missing sensory cells in the ear–in a way that the brain can understand.

I am in awe of the inventors–Graeme Clark, Ingeborg Hochmair, and Blake Wilson–who are being recognized for their pioneering research leading to the development of Cochlear Implants.

Hopefully, soon we can do for sight, smell, taste, and touch what we can do for hearing and restore the impaired to fully functioning again.

We are living in a time of great miracles–thank you G-d!

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Bjorn Knetsch)

Remember Those With Special Needs

Remember Those With Special Needs

This was an interesting sign at the swimming pool about handling sensitive gender issues with children.

The sign tells parents of “opposite gender children,” over age 5, not to take them in the locker room with them.

Instead they are told to use a separate locker room for “special needs.”

Then underneath, in the lower right corner, someone wrote in pen (it’s light, so you may not be able to read it), “Ok, but then enforce handicapped changing room!!”

Having an accident recently and being on crutches and then a cane, I myself have developed a whole new awareness for how difficult the mundane can be.

When I asked the doctor, why so-and-so happened to me, he said, “you’re not getting any younger!”

It was really a wake up call for me.

We don’t always think of all the various special needs out there: people with handicaps, illnesses, and injuries of all sorts (physical, emotional, etc.), issues related to aging, single parents, orphaned children, people taking care of young children and/or aging parents, people newly divorced or bereaving, people out of work or “simply” changing careers or perhaps moving or even immigrating, and many more.

There are so many situations which can create special needs for people.

Often at work, I see announcements for groups that help people undergoing various life changes–creating these special needs. I glance at the information about the group meetings, but usually don’t have or take the time to fully stop and really think about what these all mean for people and how it impacts them–both their personal lives and their professional ones.

Seeing the signage reminding people to use special locker rooms when they need to deal discretely with children of the opposite sex or for changing rooms for those with disabilities…it was just another jolt for me to think of others and help them whenever possible.

Sometimes when I see someone who is old or disabled going slowly down the street, I think to myself–even though I may be in hurry–that I should slow down and not pass them quickly, so as not to make them feel bad–and now when I broke my ankle, I realized it was my turn and had to go slow.

Everyone goes through times when they have special needs.

The key is when we aren’t special needs for a moment in time that we remember how fortunate we are and that everything is temporary–both good and bad.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Warrior Augmentation

Warrior Augmentation

I love the direction DARPA is going in with robotic exoskeletons for our warfighters.

Helping soldiers perform their jobs easier, more capably, and with less injury using human augmentation is good sense.

Military men and women often carry weight in excess of 100 pounds for long distances and perform other tasks that challenge human physical endurance.

Creating a durable “soft, lightweight under[or over]suit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue and improve soldiers ability to efficiently perform their missions” is an smart and achievable goal, and one that would give us great advantage in the battlefield.

The timeframe of 2012-2016 is an aggressive deadline to form the mix of core technologies, integrate them, and develop a wearable prototype.

I think the goal of having this be “potentially wearable by 90% of the U.S. Army population” is notable as not something that is for just special forces or unique missions, but rather something that can medically protect and make for a superior fighting force for all of our men and women.

This is really only the beginning of human augmentation with sensors, storage, processors, and robotics to make our warriors fight with the best that both man and machine has to offer. It’s not a fight of man versus machine, but of man and machine.

Seeing and hearing farther and with more clarity, connecting and communicating timely and under all conditions, processing loads of data into actionable information, fighting and performing mission with superior skills (strength, speed, dexterity, and endurance) and integrated weapon systems, guiding warriors to their targets and home safely–these are goals that man-machine augmentation can bring to reality.

And of course, the sheer medical and rehabilitative benefits of these technologies in caring for the sick and disabled in society is enough to “pedal to metal” drive these efforts alone.

Like on the prescient show from the 70’s, The Six Million Dollar Man, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology…Better than he was before. Better…stronger…faster.”

And I would add healthier and more deadly! 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to DARPA and Boston Dynamics)

Wheelchair Complexity

Wheelchair Complexity

So my approach to enterprise architecture, product design, and customer service, as many of you know, is plan and simple, User-centric!

Innovating, building things, servicing customers, and communicating needs to be done in a way that is useful and usable–not overly complex and ridiculous.

The other day, I saw a good example of a product that was not very user-centric.

It was a type of wheelchair, pictured here in blue.

And as you can see it is taking 2 men and a lady quite a bit of effort to manipulate this chair.

This little girl standing off to the side is sort of watching amusingly and in amazement.

What is ironic is that the wheelchair is supposed to be made for helping disabled people.

Yet, here the wheelchair can’t even be simply opened/closed without a handful of healthy people pulling and pushing on the various bars, levers, and other pieces.

If only Apple could build a wheelchair–it would be simple and intuitive and only take one finger to do everything, including play iTunes in the background. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Those Are Some Prosthetics

Wow, prosthetics have come a long way–these are tough!

This video from Biodapt shows their high-performance Moto Knee being used in a variety of action sports including snowmobiling, motor biking, mountain biking, horseback riding, water skiing, snow boarding, and jet skiing.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (11 July 2013) explains how the Moto Knee has hydraulic components that provide “tension and range of motion for intense physical activity.”

They cost around $6,000 and don’t replace the regular walking version, but Mike Schultz, the developer understands the need for these advanced prosthetics having lost a leg himself in a 2008 competitive snowmobiling accident.

I think it’s wonderful that these high-tech devices are being made available for disabled people to be able to do a wide range of exciting activities.

My hope is that as the technology continues to advance that we can have–like a person’s legs–one prosthetic device that is adaptive for use in every day use as well as more intense activities and sports.

It is hard to imagine people voluntarily trading their body parts for mechanical implants–but one day, in the not too distant future, these mechanical limbs will not only be a substitute for repair of real body parts, but will actually provide some superior capabilities–they will be used for body augmentation–and thus even be desirable by those who haven’t lost limbs.

What gives a leg up to prosthetics, as Hugh Herr in the Wall Street Journal (12 July 2013) put it is “that the designed parts of the body can improve in time, whereas the normal body, the biological body, degrades in time.”

With regenerative medicine and replacement parts by design, more than ever our physical bodies will be just the transient vessel that houses our heart, mind and soul–that which really makes us, us. 😉