7 Ways Makers Are Increasing the Care in Health Care

What if hospitals had in-house makerspaces so that doctors and nurses could modify off-the-shelf medical supplies for increased patient comfort? That would be amazing. What happens when makers collaborate with disabled people to design accessible, low-cost medical devices? Innovation. Increasingly, makers are lending their skill sets toward amping up the care in health care. For instance, MakerHealth is not only leading the charge in helping to create makerspaces in hospitals, but they’re also building a powerful network of health care providers sharing how-tos. And with maker-made innovations like the mouth-controlled input device that enables people with little or no hand movement to operate a touchscreen device, the future of health care is looking brighter every day. Read on to learn more about seven powerful ways makers are helping people live fuller lives. Then come on out to the 12th annual Maker Faire Bay Area, May 19–21, to meet these makers and get inspired.

Makers Making Change

B.C. Canada’s Makers Making Change connects makers to people with disabilities who need assistive technologies. Together they co-create access solutions. Makers Making Change offers a repository of open-source assistive technologies, and in January of this year, they held a 48-hour Access Makeathon, where each person with a disability was linked up with a team of makers who built an open-source solution that directly addressed a need of the person they were paired with. Makers got the chance to apply their skills to address a real-world and each disabled person left the event with a working prototype that improved their quality of life. One of their featured projects is called LipSync, a mouth-controlled input device that enables people with little or no hand movement to operate a touchscreen device.

LipSync is open source, affordable, 3D-printable, Arduino-based, Bluetooth-enabled, and wheelchair-mountable. It can be built in a weekend, employs easy-to-source hardware, and costs around $300 instead of $1,500 (for the off-the-shelf equivalent).

From their site:

The Lipsync is a mouth-operated joystick that allows a person to control a computer cursor with a minimum of head and neck movement. All the electronics are housed in the ‘head’ of the device so there are no additional control boxes, making the LipSync a good candidate for portable, wheelchair-mounted applications. The mouthpiece is attached to a precision miniature joystick sensor that requires only a very slight pressure on the shaft in order to move a cursor on the screen. The mouthpiece is hollow and allows a person to perform left and right mouse button clicks by alternatively puffing or sipping into the tube.

An estimated 1,000,000 people in Canada and the United States have limited or no use of their arms, meaning they are unable to use touchscreen devices that could provide access to helpful apps and services. While solutions exist for desktop computers, they can cost up to $3,000 and do not work well on mobile devices.

On Saturday, May 20, Makers Making Change cofounder Chad Leaman will be speaking in Expo Hall on the Make: Live Stage at 4:15 p.m.

Here’s Leaman demonstrating how LipSync works:


Born out of MIT’s Little Devices Lab in 2008, MakerHealth originally began as part of an approach to reinvent the way MIT students were taught medical device design. The founders observed health care professionals around the globe creating their own modified solutions, and they recognized the potential positive impact of training these folks on the front line to go from from providers to prototypers. After all, these are the people who are most in touch with the direct needs of patients, many of whom are not served by off-the-shelf generic solutions. In a nutshell, Maker Health is out to revolutionize health care. They put it best, in their description that makes you want to jump up and say, “Let’s do this!”:

We believe everyone can be a medical maker. In a world where health care technology is increasingly black boxed and unaffordable, we found a stealth community of innovators working around the clock to make health better, by making their own devices to make us better. These are the health makers, the tinkerers and the explorers that inspire our team to create instruments, to rewrite medical education, and to build the invention infrastructure in hospitals around the world. Whether it’s a prototyping kit part of tomorrow’s doctor’s bag, or a MakerHealth Space laboratory dreaming up a prototype prescription, our global team is passionate about democratizing your ability to create and invent the things you can hold in your hand. These are the things that heal. And the things that our team is making sure you can make. We’re MakerHealth and you are a health maker.

Among their offerings is helping to start makerspaces in hospitals. The very first one of its kind is at…

How to Disable Windows 10’s Game DVR (and Game Bar)

Windows 10’s Game DVR feature can slow your gaming performance by recording video in the background. If you don’t care about recording your gameplay, disable Game DVR for performance reasons.

This also disables the “Game Bar”, which often pops up when you start playing games. It’s only helpful if you want to take screenshots or record gameplay.

What Are Game DVR and the Game Bar?

The Game DVR feature in Windows 10 was originally part of the Xbox app, and it’s modeled on the similar feature on the Xbox One. Game DVR can automatically record video of your PC gameplay in the background with “background recording”, saving this video to a file when you choose. If you don’t choose to save it, Game DVR discards that video and continues recording in the background. This allows you to play games normally and then decide to save the last five minutes of gameplay to a file when something cool happens.

Unfortunately, Game DVR takes system resources. On a slower computer–or if you just want maximum graphical horsepower for your games–it can…

Touchscreen-Controlled Chair Lets Disabled Toddlers Get Around

A toddler’s sudden mobility can be frustrating for parents, but it’s an important step in a child’s mental development. Having the means to explore teaches problem-solving skills and helps little ones understand the world around them. Now, Engadget reports that two grad students have invented a device that brings this experience to kids with disabilities.

NYU Tandon School of Engineering students Tanaya Bhave and Gang Haiming came up with the Tot Bot after learning that toddlers with physical handicaps often develop lower IQs due to lack of stimulation [PDF]. One way to combat this is to give kids a way to move around.

Most motorized wheelchairs for adults are controlled with joysticks. For their…

Researchers Create Motorized Wheelchair Made for the Water Park

image credit: University of Pittsburgh

Despite advances in technology, there are many aspects of the world that remain inaccessible to people with disabilities. But researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are working to make one activity easier for people who use motorized wheelchairs: navigating water parks.

The average motorized wheelchair has a number of electrical and battery components that can’t get wet, limiting who can access the joys of splash parks and pools. But a new wheelchair that uses compressed air instead of a heavy battery could change that, Gizmodo recently reported.

Created through a joint research project between University of Pittsburgh engineers, the university’s medical center, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the PneuChair is lighter and quicker to charge…