Generating ideas to improve the daily lives of people with disabilities. This is the purpose of the Innovation Booster Technology and Special Needs. Thanks to the collaboration of various actors, a model has been created to facilitate the use of modern cooking hobs by visually impaired people.
Today’s ceramic or induction hobs can certainly be practical, but they are not suitable for everyone. For visually impaired people in particular, they can be difficult to navigate. “The first hurdle is locating the buttons. Then, when you press one of them, the beep emitted does not indicate what has happened. Furthermore, during the cooking process it is not possible to check either the cooking stage or the heat level of the hotplates,” says Luciano Butera, head of the Technology and Innovation Department at the Swiss Federation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (FSA).
It's a problem that has inspired the FSA. “We are always on the lookout for technical innovations that help visually impaired users in their daily lives. We believe that these solutions are best developed when they are initiated by cooperations,” explains Luciano Butera. In partnership with the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU), the federation has responded to a call for projects launched by the Innovation Booster Technology and Special Needs in 2021 to develop a system that would enable visually impaired people to cook without difficulty.
From discussions to actual innovation
From the research and collaborations conducted was born a device that intuitively gives users the tactile feedback they need. “The device is mounted on the cooking hob and replaces touch controls with a panel consisting of traditional controls such as dials, knobs and buttons,” explains researcher and designer Silvan Roth, a former HSLU student. The device is modular and can be used on as many different models of hobs as possible, depending on the specific needs of the user. It can also be configured for people with joint problems, reduced mobility or cognitive impairments.
An industrial partner is currently being sought to develop this system on a large scale and adapt it to other situations. “This technology is not limited to assistive applications. Equipment where there is a lot of dust, water or poor lighting conditions, or where workers wear protective gear such as gloves, which make using a touchscreen difficult, for instance. Other examples include complex, precision machines that require both fine tuning and attention to movement, such as surgical equipment, vehicle driver’s cabs or CNC machine tools”, explains Silvan Roth.
Bringing together different actors and encouraging new ideas
The objective of the Innovation Booster Technology and Special Needs is to encourage the development of innovative projects in the field of disability in Switzerland. In needs assessment workshops, people living with a disability reflect on their real needs, discuss them with other participants and define priorities together. Next, ideation workshops enable participants to meet others who are interested in the subject and willing to co-develop solutions. “These participatory processes allow end-users, mainly people with disabilities, but also family carers or helpers, to be part of the design, development and evaluation process of projects,” says Noémie Moulin, project coordinator of the Innovation Booster Technology and Special Needs. After two years of activity, more than thirty ideas in this field have already received support.
Ideas have been generated in many other areas as well. Innosuisse currently supports 18 Innovation Boosters in areas as varied as sports, food tech, robotics and energy. This programme aims to facilitate the exchange and co-creation of radical ideas between actors who might not otherwise meet. “Today’s major societal challenges call upon people from the entrepreneurial, research and public sectors to work together to try to develop new viable, feasible and desirable solutions,” explains Emile Dupont, Head of Knowledge Transfer at Innosuisse.
Last modification 13.12.2022