Evolution of assistive technology and our role to support future developments

Why is it important to millions of people around the world who use devices and technology to support their day to day life?

I’m going to reflect on the evolution of assistive technology that supports and enables people who have difficulty performing activities of daily living independently, or even with assistance, to live an independent life as physically possible.


When did it all start?

Well, assistive technology has been developed since 1800s!

In the 1820s braille was created, a tactical military code originally called night writing, developed over several years by Louis Braille by 1905 braille became an independent writing system rather than a code of printed orthography.

In 1870s following lots of research somewhere between Germany, France, and Italy the Akouphone was created by Miller Recce Hutchinson, an electric hearing aid device! A care transmitter used to amplify sound by using a weak signal using an electrical current to make it a strong signal.


Fast forward 90 years, in 1960s speech-generating devices were being developed, a piece of equipment that provides an individual who has severe speech impairment with the ability to meet their functional speaking needs. A well-known user of the equipment was the late Stephen Hawking, initially through a hand-held switch then to using a single cheek muscle.


These examples of devices/techniques have supported over millions of people around the world, some for nearly over 200 years, are still being used today!


What’s happening at the moment?

Well there are quite a few recent advances and developments by SME and big industry innovators…


A device that supports people who have Age related Macular Degeneration or Diabetic Retinopathy, SeeBOOST. A special pair of prescription eye glasses that helps with age related vision loss. The glasses have a mounted electronic device, the size of a 9 volt battery that looks like a monocular, fancy right!

With over 30 million people around the world who have a speech impairment or rely on sign language for daily communication, there is sometimes a barrier to communicating with non-sign language users. Sign-IO is a the glove, developed by Kenyan engineers, recognises various sign letters. When signed wearing the glove, the letters are sent to an Android app on the user’s phone where they are vocalised.


Approximately over 390,000 people in the UK alone are Deafblind, a term that is used what a person has a combination of impaired vision and hearing, this could be from birth or progressively into adulthood most commonly before of Congenital Rubella or Usher Syndrome.

Using their new devices Samsung has developed an app called Samsung Good Vibes that is a two-way communicator allowing people who are deaf blind to send and receive messages via their smartphone using Morse Code to translate to text with Deafblind and Caregiver modes.

(Warning, get some tissues ready for the tear jerking video below!)




What's next? What can we do?

Assistive Technology and its developments are on the rise, with 2.7 billion smartphone users in the world alone means for anyone with a disability to be more visible and enabled to live a more independent life using app, add-on devices or equipment.


Our role as humans of healthtech and innovators is to remember, influence and ensure all devices, software or products that are developed are interoperable, adaptive, reliable and accessible by all!


We must remember that our role as a community is to support diversity and inclusion in the healthtech community, we can continue to enable more people to have the same opportunities.


So what are you going to do to? Well lets start a conversation on twitter #AssistiveTech and see how others are using/supporting people around the world.



Nick Prentice is part of the global core team at One HealthTech and the Business Manager of CEO's Office at the Health Innovation Network, and has worked in health & social care for nearly 8 years.

Twitter: @NickPrentice3


Views expressed in this blog are of my own and not of my employers.


None of the above is sponsored content.


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