It’s easy to take technology for granted, but for millions of people living with disabilities, there’s a lot of modern tech that’s completely inaccessible. Keeping this in mind, 3D printing giant MakerBot recently ran a competition to develop 3D printed designs of assistive technologies for people with disabilities.
The winner? A mouth-operated mouse that can be printed and assembled for less than $20. While the concept itself is not new, the price by far is the biggest news here as commercially available mouth-operated mice cost hundreds of dollars. With free STL files from Makerbot’s Thingiverse website in hand, getting this technology is easier and cheaper than ever.
The device has a joystick-like attachment that is placed in the mouth. Moving the joystick around moves the mouse cursor: pushing the joystick towards the case emulates a right mouse click, and sucking air through the joystick a left mouse click.
“There are many new technologies that people with disabilities can’t access and in my opinion everyone should be able to benefit from today’s media, especially the Internet,” creator Tobias Wirtl says. As winner of the contest, Wirtl won a fifth-generation MakerBot Replicator worth $2,900 and will receive consulting to help him better his concept for wider use.
Makerbot received over 170 submissions to the contest in total, which was also sponsored by Google’s charitable arm Google.org. The company had earlier held an event in September in San Francisco that brought engineers, developers, designers, and hobbyists together to develop hardware and software prototypes for people with disabilities.
The contest itself was born out of that conference, and accepted submissions through November based on the attendee’s work. Some of the designs included hearing aid cases, a braille keyboard cover, and a medication bottle opener. Two other submissions also received honors in the contest, including a 3D printable wheelchair that can be built constructed with household items, and a set of assistive devices for dogs used as partners for the disabled.
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