One of the most exciting fields of engineering is the application of existing principles in totally new ways to solve long standing human-centric problems, and there have been recent breakthroughs on two such problems that will extend help to millions of people.
The GyroGlove is just what it sounds like: a glove with one or more small but intense Gyroscopes attached to it that will help steady the hands of victims of Parkinson’s and other degenerative neural disorders. Being able to shave without slicing your own throat/femoral artery or being able to eat soup without splattering half of the bowl across the table is a given for most folks, but for those who suffer from the trembling such a condition induces it makes all the difference in regaining a life with dignity and control.
For the visually impaired, electronic communication has meant a telephone so you could talk to people, or a (tiny motors driving very tiny vertical rods mechanism slaved to your internet connection) single line of Braille that you would have to read and remember until the next line was built up on the interface, and maybe the next, until you finally held the entire sentence in your mind. The advances in speech-to-text have been tremendous in the last decade, and that has helped, but there is finally a cost effective potential solution for a Braille Tablet. Using microfluidics rather than motors, a whole new class of Braille electronic outputs become available that make it possible to offer a complete screen worth of text rather than a single line, and for a fraction of the previously available outputs price.
These are powerful advances to my mind, offering new help to a lot of people that never had these options before. Even though each solution will only benefit some percentage of their target populations, I can’t help but grin at the thought that we continue to push back the barriers that keep us all from advancing.