Learn how innovation can change a person’s life
A state-of-the-art prosthetic lower limb, solidarity jewelry designed by blind people, and artificial intelligence that helps prevent diseases like depression and Parkinson’s. Discover the three projects that represent the relationship between technology and disability at this edition of Maker Faire Rome 2023.
Technology is changing the way people with disabilities interact with the world and vice versa. Advances in recent years have generated new possibilities by increasingly promoting the creation of a society in which everyone has the same opportunities. One of Maker Faire Rome’s main goals has always been to promote the social role of innovation, demonstrating how technology and creative genius can serve people.
In this article we will demonstrate this by exploring three projects presented this year that, though in very different fields, have harnessed technology to make the world a more inclusive place.
The opportunities of technology for inclusion
Advances in technology are improving the lives of a great many people with disabilities, acting mainly within three major areas: prevention, rehabilitation and achieving full social inclusion. These are more specifically “assistive technologies,” which are designed to compensate for specific disabilities and used primarily as a rehabilitative tool. In this context, innovation is indeed the only key to bridging social distances and ensuring new possibilities for all. In fact, for the first time in history, many countries are now devoting their efforts and capital to the development of technological solutions capable of ensuring equity and inclusion, generating a multibillion-dollar market that, according to Forbes, is larger than that of China. This truly exponential growth responds to a real need, namely the expected growth of the community of people with disabilities from 1.5 billion to 3.5 billion by 2050 due to aging and the rise of noncommunicable diseases.
The ongoing commitment of Maker Faire Rome
Maker Faire Rome has always demonstrated a commitment to promoting the social role of innovation by dedicating meetings, initiatives and contests with outstanding partners to the use of technology for people’s health and lives. Healthcare and Wellbeing, which had an entire pavilion during the fair, were among the thematic pillars of the event. Since its first edition, Maker Faire Rome has distinguished itself as an important stage for revolutionary solutions designed with the aim of improving people’s daily lives and everyone’s health. In this context, a special mention goes to the Make to Care contest, held in collaboration with Sanofi Italia, an always highly anticipated initiative that rewards creative and innovative minds that propose technological solutions capable of overcoming many of the challenges posed by disability. Maker Faire Rome provides an opportunity for creative talents to present valuable ideas and projects and stimulates inclusion and proactivity in the Maker community, which over the years has presented proposals ranging from assistance for daily living to biomedical devices and sports accessories. We have selected three of the most interesting projects this year.
Oro invisibile: the inclusive opportunity of 3D
Oro Invisibile is a brand of solidarity jewelry designed entirely by visually impaired and blind people using 3D technology. This important initiative is rooted in rather discouraging data. According to a 2020 study, on average, 75 percent of blind people in Europe do not have a paid job. Moreover, Italy ranks second with 181,385 unemployed blind people. Oro Invisibile was created with the aim of addressing the challenge of labor inclusion, offering many people the chance to start their careers thanks to technology. But how is the jewelry made? The creation process is far from traditional approaches: it, in fact, does not begin with the design, but consists of three distinct stages. Initially, an easily malleable porcelain is molded, then the result is scanned and 3D-printed, and upon completion of the process, casting with ethical metals closes the production cycle, giving the objects character and aesthetic beauty. The project, created by Alessandra Natalino, not only offers meaningful job opportunities but demonstrates how innovation and technology can be catalysts for creating a more inclusive and sustainable world. Oro Invisibile is driven by a vision that goes beyond jewelry making, inspiring positive social change through empowerment and inclusion.
A.I. for graphophonology in Parkinson’s and Depression
The project “A.I. for Graphophonology in Parkinson’s and Depression” is a major breakthrough in medical research and in the use of artificial intelligence for screening and telemonitoring complex diseases such as Parkinson’s and Depression. A team of researchers at San Raffaele University in Rome developed machine learning models based on graphophonological signals by analyzing handwriting and speech signals. Through a tablet and specific acquisition software, they then obtained real-time data, including the spectrogram and detailed information about the position, tilt and pressure of the digital pen. Extracting features from this data allowed them to train the models with extraordinary accuracy, exceeding 90 percent, demonstrating results in some cases superior to current scientific literature. This innovative application of artificial intelligence could open new avenues for more timely diagnosis and effective monitoring of patients with these conditions, greatly improving the quality of care and management of neurological and psychiatric diseases.
I can feel my legs
“I Can Feel My Legs” is an entirely 3D printed lower limb prosthesis, a pioneering project that offers an advanced and highly performing solution for all those who need it. Again, the project stems from statistical evidence: in Italy, people with motor disabilities make up 23.8 percent of the total community (4 million) and, of this percentage, about 200,000 have difficulty walking on a flat surface of 500 meters. The vast majority of lower limb prostheses have obvious limitations, and the fitting process is often complicated by the physiological problems of the wearer. In this context, the one presented at Maker Faire Rome is a truly cutting-edge solution. Specifically, it is the first working prototype that shows the movement of the toes, made possible through the use of a wearable sock. The movement is then implemented by a self-learning neural network that will be able to simulate toe movement and over time improve its efficiency and responsiveness.
Maker Faire Rome – The European Edition has been committed since its very first editions to make innovation accessible and usable to all, with the aim of not leaving anyone behind. Its blog is always updated and full of opportunities and inspiration for makers, makers, startups, SMEs and all the curious ones who wish to enrich their knowledge and expand their business, in Italy and abroad.
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