Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Innovations at ATIA 2018

This February, I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the ATIA conference in Florida. The ATIA conference (Assistive Technology Industry Association) is one of the most inspirational and innovative conferences around because its focus centers on technologies that can support individuals with a variety of disabilities. The vendors and attendees of the conference don't just attend ATIA for the sake of learning about the newest and coolest tech tools but to seek solutions for individuals whose daily lives are challenged by personal disabilities. Once again, this year's innovations were groundbreaking, to say the least -- too many to list but here are some of my favorites.

With the advent of virtual reality, people with mobility impairments can now learn to navigate a wheelchair, scooter or bicycle through a controlled virtual environment using VR glasses or a 3D dome. This helps the client to become more aware of how to motor plan and manipulate their chair without the fear of injury or damage.

Another relatively new device, The OrCam Camera, clips onto the wearer’s glasses. This device helps individuals with visual impairments to recognize faces, identify articles, read text on signs, paper and smartphones and even help them to navigate the world around them. This small computerized camera provides the wearer with audio feedback via a tiny earpiece. What a brilliant device!

ATIA also focuses quite a bit on those individuals on the autism spectrum. One of the most intriguing products newly introduced to help with this population is the Leka robot ball. This device seeks to motivate social interaction through play. The ball features a screen, motors and sensors that can be controlled from a number of different apps and can be used to help foster communication, visual awareness, musical play and social interaction. This was just one of many items focused on serving the autism population.

Another great item for those on the autism spectrum was the SNug Vest which inflates to provide deep pressure therapy to help with anxiety relief.

To many of us who are “techie” by nature, technology in and of itself is pretty cool, but when it serves to help overcome problems for those with physical, cognitive or psychological challenges, it is amazingly inspirational. Kudos to the great innovators of ATIA 2018.