A man in a wheelchair who can read and write is no longer necessary for everyday tasks.
A new set of tools designed by the Swiss startup Bionymakers enables users to create and modify devices from a single design, allowing them to create a range of functional tools and even a fully functional prosthetic limb.
The new tools are being used by people from all walks of life and are being widely used by doctors, paramedics and the disabled.
But while they can enable them to do their jobs, these tools also pose a new danger to the disabled who have limited mobility and therefore are less likely to be able to use them.
“The problem of the disability is that the disability becomes more complex and more restrictive,” says Thomas Rölle, a professor of computer science at the University of Zurich who is also a co-founder of Bionysims.
“The tools can also become more dangerous, as the user can lose control of their actions and their abilities.”
Bionysim’s new tools come in two basic versions.
One is a standard tool kit which is designed to be used by most people.
The other, a more customized tool kit, which is available for $5,000 (£3,400).
The Bionyme tool kit has two pieces: a pen that the user writes on and a button that activates the pen.
When the user presses the button, a small battery pack inside the pen powers up the pen and enables the user to write on the wall, with a limited amount of ink.
The user can choose to use a different pen when they want to write in different directions.
The pen and the button have a sensor inside that measures the pressure of the user’s hand, which then determines the pen’s power level and the pressure applied to the button.
A specialised sensor in the pen detects when the user pushes down on the button to activate the pen, as well as the pressure on the pen itself.
“You can use this to create different types of objects,” explains Röle.
“You can create objects that have different capabilities or different shapes.”
The tool kit is a single piece that has three components.
The first is the pen that is used.
The second is the sensor inside the first piece that detects the pressure, and the third piece is the button that allows the user, or a third party, to use the pen to write.
The company hopes to bring the new tools to market by the end of 2019, but it has yet to sell any products.
The company is working on making a second version of the tool kit with the ability to create tools that are both more portable and that are less expensive to manufacture.
“In the end, the aim is to have a tool that is cheap to make, but that can be used in many different contexts, and that will be an important part of the next few years,” says Röls co-creator, Sebastian Mörnbach.
Mörnhausen has been studying the concept of the “mechanic keyboard” for more than two years, but says the company first thought of the concept when it was working on its first prototype, the Bionxme, which was designed to allow users to perform manual tasks.
“I didn’t know if we were going to find a better way to use this tool kit,” he says.
“It’s a very powerful tool, but if you want to use it, it’s really important to know how to use and use properly.”
Bionsims founder Sebastian Möller, left, with co-founders Thomas Rolle and Thomas Rollle, at the company’s Zurich headquarters in 2013.
Image: Bionyxme concept.
Bionymsims has raised a total of $17.7m (£14.3m) in funding from investors including Fidelity Investments, a venture capital fund, and Swiss company Bionz.