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Robots and Flappy Bird!


By David Ashton-Jones

We are pleased to have selected HMA Digital as our partner to develop the Disability Action Yorkshire website, which will bring us up-to-date with current standards, as well as include some functionality to allow us to reach and advise disabled people better. We are excited about this project, which will involve our customers in its development.

My journey into looking for a website has taken a few different routes since January; we selected HMA because of their close link with a number of assistive technology providers. It seems as though, one way or another, all of the organisations that I have come into contact with are linked, so this partnership fits in quite well with our overall direction.

HMA has worked alongside Sheffield University and Tunstall in developing apps relating to health, and science and technology, two organisations we are growing positive relationships with. We look forward to the developments as the project gets underway. You can read more about HMA and some of the projects they have been involved in here.

In our last post, I spoke briefly about CATCH and an initial meeting with Simon Butler, which led me to an exhibition at the Winter Gardens in Sheffield. What an experience that was! It started with a lecture on Friday from Professor Luc de Witte, which I found inspiring. You can watch it here. I was lucky enough to have a conversation with the professor the next day at the exhibition where some quite remarkable technology was on display, and I would like to use the remainder of the post to tell you about two pieces of technology that I witnessed.

Pepper Robot

I think my inquisitive nature around robots stems from childhood. I was fascinated by technology in a broader sense and remember certain toys I had in a robot form, and there was even a blue robot Christmas tree decoration that I remember fondly. I think it is now becoming a common theme that when someone says the word “robot,” my face lights up! When I hear about the advancements in robots, I am quite often amazed at the breakthroughs, and I was comforted in response to my previous post where I mentioned the challenges robots have in a care setting in their ability to pick people up and put them down safely. It seems that in countries such as Japan, they are already showcasing such robotics, and you can read more about that in this article.  Hopefully in the not too distant future, the UK will also launch something like this, but for now, let me tell you about the Pepper Robot that was on display at the exhibition.

Disability Action Yorkshire | Pepper Robot

Four Pepper Robots were purchased by CATCH, and they will be developed alongside Sheffield Robotics. Pepper can move, talk and interact with people, and it was great to see it in action. It did get a bit confused at times because of the noise of the crowd, but the premise was easy to identify with and I could definitely see how it may be used in an independent living setting for medication reminders, or a grander version of the Amazon Echo where you could not only shout a command to a smart plug to boil a kettle, perhaps this robot could be developed to actually go to the kitchen and get a cup of tea for you! At £17,000 it is a little expensive to pick up from your local electrical store right now, but in a similar sense, as I was challenged last time around, it might not be as far off as you think!

You can watch the unboxing of Pepper here


As I walked to another stand, I was interested to see the game Flappy Bird on a monitor. Some of you may know about the game, while most may not, so I won’t go on about it. You can read about it here. The point about Emego and the game that intrigued me was the way it uses a muscle in your forearm and with a  movement of your finger gives you the ability to control the up and down direction of the bird. The way muscle movement is detected is via a strap which contains a small device that can be placed on your forearm.

Disability Action Yorkshire | Emego

The switch itself can be adjusted, so that even someone with the most limited movement can use the control. The way this device worked got me thinking and I could see how it could be used to control environmental switches such as lights and thermostats which could contribute to disabled people having more independence in their home. The developers of the device are showcasing it around the country at a number of assistive technology events and it is due to launch at AAATE in September. It was nice to see that the company developing Emego (GSPK Design) are not based far from Disability Action Yorkshire Head Office so we hope to keep an interested eye on the future development of their technology.

 Market Place Event

We will be hosting our Market Place Event on the 7th of June at the Cedar Court Hotel. There will be a number of organisations showcasing assistive technology in relation to independent living, as well as a number of other organisations that can provide information  and guidance. We had a fantastic turnout at our last one in 2015 and hope to continue that trend!

Disability Action Yorkshire | Market Place event listing

We are interested in hearing from you if you are looking for a particular solution and any ideas or suggestions you may have regarding assistive technology that can develop our knowledge further at Disability Action Yorkshire.