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New York U Selects Winners of Connect Ability Challenge

New York University's (NYU) Ability Lab has selected the winners of its Connect Ability technology challenge.

Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the three-month competition was designed "to spur innovation for people with physical, social, emotional and cognitive disabilities," according to a news release. "Sixty-three software, wearable and other technology solutions aimed at enhancing the lives of people with disabilities were submitted by developers from 16 states and 15 countries."

Challenge participants were encouraged to include people with disabilities in designing, developing and testing their solutions and had the opportunity to interact with people of diverse abilities to offer guidance throughout the competition.

Kinesic Mouse, a device that uses a 3D camera to allow users to control a computer through facial expressions and head rotations, took the $25,000 prize for first place, along with $10,000 for "Best Mobility Solution."

"NYU was founded on the concept of 'In and of the City.' It is still a major theme within the university. Over this past summer we have been proud to partner with [challenge sponsor] AT&T to make the city a bit more friendly and livable for its residents," said Katepalli Sreenivasan, dean of the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering. "The Connect Ability Challenge has been a platform for us to bring together some bright minds to create Apps that will enable those with disabilities to have better access. This use of technology to enhance people's lives is a pursuit worthy of praise and celebration."

Other winning projects included:

  • Ava (Transcense), an app that translates conversation into text, won $10,000 for "Best Solution for People with Sensory Disabilities";
  • $10,000 for "Best Social/Emotional Solution" went to LOLA, a tool that uses humor and challenges to help users strengthen social skills;
  • Drumpants (Taps), wearable buttons that can be tapped to trigger customized phrases audible through a smartphone or to control applications, won $10,000 for being the "Best Solution for people with Communicative and Cognitive Disabilities"; and
  • "Best Solution Impacting Policy and Society" and $10,000 was awarded to the team behind Enlight, a tool that allows users to scan their surroundings with a smartphone to receive notifications about the area to aid in navigation.

Three other devices earned $5,000 prizes.

"As our technology continues to evolve, we are finding new ways to improve the lives of the disabled, increase their access to technology and allow them to more fully enjoy the benefits of modern life. That's what this challenge is all about," said U.S Senator Charles Schumer, in a prepared statement. "When President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act after Senator Ted Kennedy championed the bill through Congress, he hoped it would 'tear down the shameful walls of exclusion' that kept disabled Americans from achieving their potential. What better way to honor the 25th Anniversary of the ADA than with this competition to remove, via technology, what barriers remain."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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