Best of Made In America: Access4Kids

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As part of our ongoing effort to promote U.S. MADE-IN-THE-USA Manufacturing, each month we highlight products and companies that provide innovative and unique products that make a difference in people’s lives. We encourage our readership to both buy and promote products made in America. Here’s our hip find for the month:

Imagine not being able to touch a touch-screen device. Tablets and smartphones—with all their educational, entertaining and social benefits—would be useless. Researchers at Georgia Tech are trying to open the world of tablets to children whose limited mobility makes it difficult for them to perform the common pinch and swipe gestures required to control the devices. Ayanna Howard, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and graduate student Hae Won Park have created Access4Kids, a wireless input device that uses a sensor system to translate physical movements into fine-motor gestures to control a tablet. The device, coupled with supporting open-source apps and software developed at Georgia Tech, allows children with mobility disabilities to access off-the-shelf apps such as Facebook and YouTube, as well as custom-made apps for therapy and science education. “Every child wants access to tablet technology. So to say, ‘No you can’t use it because you have a physical limitation’ is totally unfair,” Howard said. “We’re giving them the ability to use what’s in their mind so they have an outlet to impact the world.” The current prototype of the Access4Kids device includes three force-sensitive resistors that measure pressure and convert it into a signal that instructs the tablet. A child can wear the device around the forearm or place it on the arm of a wheelchair and hit the sensors or swipe across the sensors with his or her fist. The combination of sensor hits or swipes gets converted to different “touch-based” commands on the tablet. Children with neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, spina bifida and muscular dystrophy typically suffer from fine motor impairments, which is the difficulty of controlling small coordinated movements of the hands, wrists and fingers. They tend to lack the ability to touch a specific small region with appropriate intensity and timing needed for press and swipe gestures. made in america The impact of Access4Kids could be significant. More than 200,000 children in the U.S. public school system have an orthopedic disability and have been excluded from tablet and touch screen devices. Current assistive technology, such as Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices, is available to those with motor disabilities for traditional computer platforms but not tablets or smartphones. “We can’t keep it in the lab,” Howard said. “It doesn’t make sense for me to have one child, one at a time look at it and say ‘Hey that’s really cool’ and not have it out there in the world. The real goal is to make it safe and efficient so someone can make it into a commercial product.” Howard is creating a second prototype that aims to be more flexible. It will include wireless sensors that can be placed anywhere a child is capable of hitting them, such as with a foot or the side of the head. User trials for the second prototype will begin soon. Howard says she hopes to have the device through clinical trials starting next year. So far Access4Kids has received positive feedback from both typically developing children and children with disabilities, as well as caregivers. The device was also a finalist in a recent Intel-sponsored competition and was showcased to the British Consulate prior to the Paralympic games this summer, receiving good reviews. The project was originally funded through the NSF-sponsored Broadening Participation in Computing Program and then through I-Corps, a National Science Foundation program that aims to translate scientific discoveries into useful products for society. Howard is working on a version of the device called TabAccess for adults with motor disabilities. Access4Kids also received a seed grant from the Atlanta Pediatric Device Consortium, a partnership between Georgia Tech, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Atlanta Clinical & Translational Science Institute that provides assistance with the commercialization of novel pediatric medical devices and technologies.

Check out a demo of the device and see why this definitely deserves to be one of our Best of Made In America highlights.

Accelerated Buy Sell, Inc. Tyler Skibenes is the Sales Associate at Accelerated Buy Sell, Inc. as well as a contributing author to the blog. He helps spread the word about the “Accelerated Group of Companies” that provides tools and services to help manufacturers grow and exit strategies to maximize dollars when they are ready to retire or sell their manufacturing business. Accelerated’s group of companies that provide services to the manufacturing industry includes: www.AcceleratedBuySell.com – Provides Online Industrial Auction Services, Used Equipment Auctions, Capital Equipment Auctions, Plant Liquidations, Industrial Plant Cleanout Services, Used Machinery Location Services, Certified Machine Tool and Equipment Appraisals, and more. www.AcceleratedMfgBrokers.com – Specializes in Manufacturing Business Brokerage and Mergers and Acquisitions.  We help manufacturers develop exit strategies to maximize retirement dollars, and successful manufacturers expand through acquisition of other manufacturing companies, product lines and customer lists.  Manufacturing Companies for sale throughout the United States are listed on this site. www.AcceleratedRE.com – Provides Industrial Real Estate Brokerage Services, Online Real Estate Auctions, Sealed Bid Real Estate Auctions and complete industrial facility cleanout services. www.IgniteMfg.com – Provides funding for products made in the USA, and engineering/manufacturing educational needs through Crowd Funding. www.MfgWebSolutions.com – Provides web development and social media services for manufacturers at under-market rates. Tyler Skibenes is a contributing author to: blog.AcceleratedBuySell.com - A site that provides the latest manufacturing news, statistics and opinion.   It also provides information on how to grow a manufacturing business, and what to do if you are a manufacturing company that needs to close.

About Frances Brunelle

Fran Brunelle is an industrial auctioneer with 20 years experience, a manufacturing business broker, licensed real estate broker specializing in industrial properties, a real estate auctioneer, certified appraiser and author.

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