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An Assistive Device for Curb & Elevation Detection

A flexible assistive device that prevents falls by detecting changes in elevation giving users greater awareness of their surroundings

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it enable older adults to live their best possible life by preventing falls?

This assistive device is designed for the aging population with mobility constraints with or without visual impairments. According to AARP, 25% of falls are due to curbs and steps i.e., changes in elevation. To solve this, my device alerts users changes in elevation like curbs, steps, and stairs. It helps alleviate concerns of not being able to see step ups and step downs which allows users to continue active living without concerns of falling. The product is a cost effective, discrete wearable.

According to the National Council on Aging, 25% of the population above the age of 65 fall every year. Other studies show that falls account for 25% of all hospital admissions and 40% of all nursing home admissions. 40% of those admitted do not return to independent living and 25% die within a year. Unknown and unpredictable changes in terrain are a significant cause of falls in older adults and the fear of such falls severely impacts active living. When talking to many members of the blind community, they expressed that one of their primary fears is changes in elevation and that they knew people whose lives had been lost due to tripping over curbs. My goal is to remove the guesswork out of navigating elevation changes by having vulnerable populations use a simple assistive device that can be worn on their clothing or mounted to a cane or walker to alleviate their fears.

During outdoor activities, be it walking around the neighborhood or going to the grocery store, the most prominent unknown and unpredictable elevation change is a curb. Older adults, especially those using canes, are most susceptible to falls caused by curbs and some lead to fatalities. According to the CDC, 19% of pedestrian fatalities are of people in the 65+ population. Vision and tactile detection are the two main ways to detect a curb. If someone has problems with their vision, using their eyes to notice curbs can be challenging. As for tactile detection, bumping into curbs can cause instability leading to a fall. Though tactile paving can help with identifying the end of sidewalks and possibly prevent hazardous step downs a lot of seniors have reduced sensation in their feet making it harder to detect step downs.

Indoors, a variety of elevation changes like stairs and step ups and downs between rooms can be trip hazards thus leading to falls. Even if older adults learn to navigate these changes in elevation in their own home they may be fearful of unknown locations due to the unknown terrain. This fear of falling may prevent them from going to new public or private locations like museums and homes of friends and family.

 My assistive device uses a combination of sensors and precision measurement algorithms to detect the changes in elevation. Once the curb or step is detected, the user is alerted to the presence of the change in elevation via haptic feedback. Due to the simplistic design and a straightforward feedback loop, the response to the detections is fast and reliable. There is no complex programming or syncing to devices needed to get started. This minimal learning curve makes the device extremely user-friendly to the senior population. The low manufacturing cost (<$50) makes it affordable for older adults who may have limited incomes. Additionally, the device is designed to be discrete so it has less stigma associated with it. 

All in all, the device assists the user in the most effective and efficient manner keeping their needs and limitations at the focal point. The invention helps imbibe the senior with a sense of autonomy. This sense of autonomy and independence positively impacts their spirits and morale which in turn has a positive impact on their health. This device grants the autonomy to the elderly population helping them interact with the world without the fear of falling. 

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I have personally tested this assistive device in a single controlled environment with a 97% accuracy rate. The best way to test the device with the target population is to set up a controlled course. The users with mobility constraints and possible visual impairments will test the prototype by navigating the course with and without the assistive device. The data collected on the accuracy of the navigation with and without the device will help me make refinements and test in the real world.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Ways the OpenIDEO community can help me with my device: • Integrate the device into the existing life of the target population • Make the device more user-friendly while lowering costs • Better understanding… o …the needs of the target market here and abroad o …the environmental conditions in different parts of the world that may affect the usability and longevity of the device o …the unusual and unique terrains in various geographical locations that users may encounter

How long has your idea existed?

  • 4 months - 1 year

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a junior in high school. I have worked on various hardware and software assistive devices. I attended a boot-camp by IDEO in 2016 where I was introduced to human-centric design principles. My projects have ranged from assistive devices to web apps to help people. More info at techfilmer.com

26 comments

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Photo of An Old Friend
Team

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Photo of Robert Smith
Team

Congratulations Srijay on your Top Idea!

Robert

Photo of Rodney Lobo
Team

Hi Srijay we have been testing the reverse proximity sensor, and your idea might be able to use it in your prototype,as it will at the very least show if there is a large distance between your device and the ground. however, you might have to modify the way the sensor works. (You had commented on our idea, and I've replied about the way it works).

I know you have tested the device on your own, but it is always beneficial to ask other to test and get their opinion, as you might not know some of the hidden difficulties of using the device.

Photo of Srijay
Team

Hi All,
Recently Josh asked if I was looking into a computer vision system solution.
Just wanted to share my goal.
While I have been researching Internet aware, vision library based option - using online photo libraries for a higher grade future version.
Current versions though is low cost, no internet access, no or low maintenance version for wider audience.

Appreciate any comments.

- Srijay

Photo of Gregg
Team

Sirjay: Your proposed curb and elevation detection mechanism is interesting and but it would be useful to provide more information, such as:
a) What technology is used by the detector?
b) What is the weight, size, and battery life of the full unit?
c) Does it work at an oblique angle when affixed to the waist?
d) Does it work well from the higher side of a curb or elevation, as well as from the lower side?
e) Can it detect potholes, uneven sidewalk sections, and throw rugs on a floor.
I hope that you can make the devise work for a wide range of mobility hazards.

Photo of Srijay
Team

Hi Gregg,

Thank you for the questions. 'd' works. Working on 'c and e' - mixed results till now.

Srijay

Photo of Srijay
Team

Hi Gregg,

For now not able to detect throw rugs. Working on the minimum elevation change that is important to the elderly.

Thank you for the questions.

Srijay

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Srijay,

It is great to see all the comments on your post.

We are half-way through the refinement phase and I can’t wait to see continued updates on your idea.
More information can be found in the refinement toolkit which can be found at the top of the refinement phase page.

An easy first step is to complete the refinement questions which can be found by logging into your OpenIDEO account and selecting the ‘Edit Contribution’ button on the top left hand corner.

If you scroll down to the bottom, you can see the five added questions with a character limit (including spaces) to help you focus your answer. The questions start with "How would you describe this idea while in an elevator with someone? (what's the elevator pitch for this idea?) - 400 character limit"

In addition to answering these questions it would be helpful if you could mention how your solution fits in the market in the ‘full description’ section of your post. Who are your competitors and how is your idea unique?

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me, my email address is krushton@ideo.com

Hope to see you on the refinement call this Friday at 9 am PST.

Photo of Srijay
Team

Kate,

Thank your for the reminders.

Srijay

Photo of Srijay
Team

Hi All - answering the last question:

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

The impact of the idea is in the number of basic units sold. The product is not complicated and the intentions is to not have 'required' software refreshes. It is meant to be widely used and is intended not to tax the elderly with customer feedbacks and software updates. Ideally it should blend and be transparent to them.

Good luck every one.

Srijay

Photo of Srijay
Team

Answering last but one question:
How does your idea demonstrate or plan to demonstrate scalability?
The scalability of the product is because of simple design. The technology used is widely available and has been available for a long time. Integration of the device into daily life does not require significant habit change. Hence its usability lends to quicker wider use and hence quicker price drop - that is scalability.

Srijay

Photo of Srijay
Team

Answering on more questions from the review period:
"Who are your competitors and how is your idea unique?"
Simplicity is the unique selling point of curbd. Really there is no competition for curbd at the price point I am working toward. While many patents for products that achieve the same goal have been filed, none of them are on the market. The only other legitimate competitor on the market is simply the white cane, though curbd aims to fill the gaps left by the cane.

Appreciate letting me know if you know of any.
Srijay

Photo of Srijay
Team

Hi All,

Due to school I missed answering a few questions during review period - so I am posting my answer for "What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?"

I am hoping to do further tests on the road once school is done. My last invention for the visually impaired was tested at our local Home for the Aged. I tested with about 8 residents. Tests were done by setting up an obstacle course to simulate a home environment and by seeing the usefulness of the invention. I hope to do a similar session for curbd as my first step.

Srijay

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Hi Srijay. Thanks for your comment on my post and for linking me to your idea. Congrats on the idea being in refinement! I shared your idea with two older adults. At this point they do not need this aid but said they thought it was a good idea and would consider using it if they did.

Is the alert a sound or a vibration? Are there situations that might be false alarms?

I like that the device can be worn or used on an assistive device. Also the flexibility of being able to move it from one assistive device to another might be useful. (from your comment below)
What is the size? Could the device attach to a belt? Will it work if under a coat?

Good luck developing the project!

Photo of Srijay
Team

Hi Bettina,

Thanks for the encouragement. Appreciate it.
The current design is to alert by vibrating the cane itself - so nothing new needs to be added to hand or leg. The software is being tested to reduce false alarms but my first goal is not to miss when alerts have to be given. With any assistive technology, it's better to err on the side of caution so to that end I do not want to be aggressive with removing false positives. The intention of the product is to give more awareness of the surroundings, and if being aggressive with false positives starts creating false negatives that are not achieving the previously outlined intention. So I am testing the software extensively. Currently, the device can attach to a belt using a 3D printed clip on. However, it does not work on any clothing that is untucked nor will it work underneath a coat as it uses infrared which requires a direct line of sight.

Thanks again Bettina.

Srijay

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Srijay 

Thank you for all your hard work in this challenge and dedication.

All of the ideas posts are locked but the comments section is still open, so please feel free to look at other ideas and comment on them, seek feedback on your idea etc.

I know I have asked many ideators this question but I am asking again as some ideas pivoting in the challenge. Would you say your idea is Most Viable or Most Promising? How would the incentives associated with that Award (Most Viable/Most Promising) be helpful for you?

Photo of Srijay
Team

HI Kate,

curbd fits under the category of Most Viable for the reason that a prototype has been built. While only the core features work and there is a lot to be designed before the final version, it is all within the realm of possibility. The funding from the award will essentially be the first investment and will allow me to make multiple devices to properly test curbd as well as fund further development of it.

Srijay

Photo of Srijay
Team

Hi All,

Excited about seeing SAT exams in rear view mirror tomorrow :)

I fine tuned my pitch using a few lessons I learnt at the JA (Junior Achievement) recently.
Appreciate any feedback.

"One of the biggest problems facing the visually impaired community is changes in elevation. If unaware of the step up or step down, the sudden jolt of a change in elevation can be startling to a person and can even cause a serious fall. curbd solves for this by utilising a system of sensors to detect changes in elevation and warns the user of the change just enough before so that they can be empowered by the knowledge and awareness their surroundings."

Photo of Srijay
Team

Hi All,

Due to school I missed writing about the affordability of curbd.

The design of curbd is intentionally simple, easily accessible parts, and simple to learn to use. There are only two sensors and a cheap, low power micro-controller is used. The gimbel (to keep the device straight) is a very simple (instead of using a true gyroscope) so anyone can move it between walking canes and walkers, There is not a lot to learn other than plug, charge, and use. Cost right now at the ones and twos scale is near $35/unit but with the economies of scale it will easily come down to $15/unit.

What do you guys think?
Srijay

Photo of Srijay
Team

Hi All, a question was asked a few days ago on how curbd tackles 'oblique angle when affixed to the waist.' I was already working with the 'Gimbel' concept but was not satisfied with options I created. I wanted a simpler and cheaper option. Homedepot to rescue, I was finally able to put it together with
(i) a simple PVC T joint - for both cane mount as well as receptor for curbd casing
(ii) Then I 3D printed the insert counter part on the device casing itself :)

Appreciate feedback

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Srijay,

Is there a person with a certain type of expertise that you would like to receive feedback from? I am going to tag Gregg and Khuyen Bui Gia 

Maybe Poly Endrasik might have some insights.

Srijay, have you been able to get some feedback from older adults?

Photo of eldy wullur
Team

Hi Srijay,

Very good idea, I am interested to learn more for the elderly Abraham-Sarah. Just keep in touch.

Photo of Srijay
Team

Hi Eldy,

Thank you for the encouragement. Will keep you posted for sure.

Srijay

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Srijay,

Welcome to the refinement phase!

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me via email or by tagging me using ‘@‘ and ‘Kate Rushton’.

There are a few ideas from past OpenIDEO that might be a source of inspiration, although they are not a close match to your idea.

Sweat band (a top idea from our past healthy lives challenge) is a physical monitoring product -
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/healthy-lives/top-ideas/rekindle-the-sweat-band - it has a good example of a user profile, user journey and direct consumer feedback. They have also thought about how they could advertise their product.

Another interesting one is the All Generation Friendly ATM (from our financial longevity challenge) is a great example of prototyping with its video footage and testing with feedback -
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/financial-longevity/top-ideas/all-generation-friendly-atm

Photo of Srijay
Team

Hi Kate,

Sweat band project makes sense in terms of affordability. ATM project makes sense on presentation. Thank you for the inputs.

Srijay

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Srijay!

Interesting idea!

Do you have any video footage of you testing the device that you can share with us?

Do you have a photo of the device?