Gestice League: Bringing Superhero Powers to Every Kid

 

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LUAH Xiao Wen, Year 4 Pharmacy, is one of the brains behind Gestice League, an innovation that helps cerebral palsy (CP) patients perform tasks and communicate with their caregivers through user-determined gestures.

The innovation took the champion spot amongst 14 teams of undergraduates from various disciplines, in the latest edition of the University’s Makerthon competition, themed “Giving superpowers to children in need”.

The competition, held from 10 December 2018 to 7 January 2019, included recruitment talks and preparatory workshops for participants on design thinking, use of engineering hardware, as well as talks by National University Hospital (NUH) physiotherapists and physicians who shared about the needs of CP patients and caregivers.

“It was a comprehensive starter pack to get us going, regardless of our academic backgrounds,” said Xiao Wen.

The Gestice League team, comprising Year 4 Engineering majors Amos HENG and CHONG Ze Xuan, Year 4 Design and Environment major Claire TEO, and Xiao Wen, studied existing products in the market and interviewed several children with cerebral palsy and their caregivers to better understand their needs and challenges faced.

The team realised that many products in the market are fixed in nature – they require patients to learn and comply with the product to be able to use them. This poses a problem for CP children due to their different range of mobilities and end output tasks. The products are also highly specialised, and caregivers have to purchase multiple products for different functions. The high product cost adds on to their financial burdens.

From their findings, the team decided to create a versatile, gesture-based wearable system that aids CP children in completing everyday simple tasks ranging from communication to the use of smart phone appliances. The system is also customisable, where the device learns the children, instead of the children learning the device.

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This was achieved via a simple Inertia Measurement Unit that could be worn on any part of the user’s body, connected to the user’s phone or tablet via Bluetooth and voila! – It becomes a very portable (and cost-effective) device that can be used anywhere and everywhere. The user could also trigger any actions from their custom gestures such as pausing or playing a song on Spotify, or sending notifications to their caregiver just by stomping their feet!

Gestice League consists of a three-step algorithm, namely Train – where the machine learns to identify specific gestures, Trigger – where the user performs the same gestures to prompt, and Task – where the tasks are delivered or completed through IFTTT, a free web-based service that programmes automatic actions (things you want to happen every time certain conditions are met, without you needing to do anything).

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The final product also took into consideration various factors such as being small in size to contain all the electrical components yet snug to fit children; reusability to allow recharging of the battery and internal circuits; customisability to allow for different size, shapes and colour options of the device’s strap; and aesthetics where the sticker on the top could be changed to the superhero the child wanted, because “the product was only as good as how much the children were willing to use it”.

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The team went an extra mile in creating Gestice League – they sourced for a simple mould that could be easily mass manufactured so that they could develop it beyond the competition.

Xiao Wen said, “Working in a multidisciplinary team brought together each member’s different perspectives and knowledge to create a product from scratch. With the team comprising a hardware engineer, a software engineer, a storyteller and a healthcare professional, we took the lead in our respective areas of specialisation.”

She added, “Being from different disciplines required more effort to convey our thoughts and ideas to each other, especially when they were technical, but our varying perspectives propelled us forward and helped make the product more robust in many aspects.”

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The Makerthon competition is initiated by the NUS Senior Deputy President and Provost’s Office and organised by the School of Computing, School of Design and Environment and Faculty of Engineering.

 

View the team’s video here