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Robotic arm shows how incredible digital technology can be for disabled people

By Mark Smith, Marketing Officer, Digital Communities Wales

I thought I’d seen it all, until coming across this BBC news feature….

It’s essentially a robotic arm that can feed someone who is in a wheelchair. Not impressed? You should be. The arm is attached to the wheelchair, it uses algorithms to detect the item of food that it’s picking up. It uses sensors to help it pick up a piece of food and the action of moving the fork to someone’s mouth. The mind boggles.

We’ve been talking about assistive technology for some years now, but examples such as this are taking developments onto a whole new level. Those behind the Assistive Dexterous Arm (ADA) hope it will help caregivers. ADA can only feed fruit to someone at the moment, but the hope is that meals will be next on the menu!

I’m sure lots of us remember Marty McFly’s hover board in Back to the Future, and the incredible predictions for future technology on Tomorrow’s World. Did you ever think you’d see something like this?

If you have a disability, or know someone who does, could something like this help them? Is there a product or device that you would like to see invented to help someone with a particular disability? If so, what would it be? Let your imagination run wild, as it probably does with inventors of the products that are actually helping people today.

This story takes me back to a day when I visited a Digital Communities Wales client – Scope Cwmbran. We had provided a kit loan to staff, to support their clients to do more with tablet devices and laptops – far from the robotic arm, but hugely useful nonetheless. I was moved by the way people, with what I consider to be severe disabilities, were being helped to use iPads to have particular sensory experiences for the first time. This included touch, speech and creativity, and while it might seem basic to some, for the beneficiaries it clearly brought joy and purpose. This was a strong reminder of the barriers that disabled people face to getting online and using digital technology.

The digital devices that we take for granted didn’t exist ten years ago. What do you think we’ll see in another ten years that could make a huge different to quality of life, to people’s health and the way they receive care?

If you’re in the health or social care sectors, and need support which can enable you to help the people you assist to do more with digital technology, simply get in touch and we can take it from there. Thank you.

For more on BBC Technology news, please go to the Click website.