ATU logo

ATU490 – Gridpad Trilogy with Tricia McGee from Control Bionics

Play

ATU logo

Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Tricia McGee SLP – Regional Sales Consultant – Control Bionics
Guam 322 Story: https://bit.ly/30jRL7V
Independent Living Story: https://bit.ly/33cBbJ7
Foot Mouse Story: https://bit.ly/3ieBh72

——————————
If you have an AT question, leave us a voice mail at: 317-721-7124 or email tech@eastersealscrossroads.org
Check out our web site: http://www.eastersealstech.com
Follow us on Twitter: @INDATAproject
Like us on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/INDATA

——————– Transcript Starts Here ————————-

Tricia McGee:
Hi, this is Tricia McGee and I’m a regional sales consultant for Control Bionics and this is your Assistive Technology Update.

Josh Anderson:
Hello, and welcome to your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology, designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs. I’m your host, Josh Anderson, with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana.

Josh Anderson:
Welcome to episode 490 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on October 16th, 2020. On today’s show we’re super excited to have Tricia McGee on from Control Bionics, and she’s going to tell us about the new GridPad Trilogy in the NeuroNode and a different way to access this AAC device.

Josh Anderson:
We have a story about a new accessible emergency contact program out of Guam, a story on some new devices available to help individuals stay independent for longer and stay living in their own homes. And finally, we’ll finish up with a story about an individual who doesn’t use assistive technology, learning how a trackball mouse can help them control parts of their computer with their feet.

Josh Anderson:
Don’t forget if you ever do want to reach out to us, you can send us an email at techateastersealscrossroads.org. Call our listener line at (317) 721-7124 or drop us a line on Twitter @INDATAproject. Now let’s go ahead and get on with the show.

Josh Anderson:
You find yourself with a little bit more time on your hands. Maybe you’re really busy and only have a little bit of time to listen to podcast. Or maybe listening to this has you thinking, what about this? What about that? Well, if you’re short on time, or if you have questions about assistive technology, we have other podcasts that might just fit your needs.

Josh Anderson:
The first one is Accessibility Minute. This one-minute long podcast gives you a little taste of assistive technology and really kind of wets your whistle to get you go out and find out more about a piece of technology and how it might help those you work with, yourself or maybe a friend or family member. If you happen to have questions about assistive technology, we have assistive technology frequently asked questions or ATFAQ. The show is hosted by Brian Norton and features yours truly, along with Belva Smith and Tracy Castillo.

Josh Anderson:
As we all talk about assistive technology with questions that come in from email, phone calls, and other means. We also don’t always know the answer. So it’s very important that we have listeners that can help us out with some of those questions, because while we like to think every once in a while that we may know everything we’re proven wrong almost daily on that one.

Josh Anderson:
So if you’re looking for more podcasts to listen to, if you’re short on time and need a really quick podcast, or if you have questions about assistive technology, make sure to check out Accessibility Minute and assistive technology frequently asked questions wherever you get your podcast.

Josh Anderson:
So our first story today comes from the Pacific Daily News. And this is a story out of Guam and it’s actually titled, GFD announces 322 service for deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired. The story is about a new service for emergency assistance is being introduced in Guam called 322. And 322 is specifically made for residents who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired so that they can text the Guam fire department in case of emergencies.

Josh Anderson:
So the fire department got a tablet and the service donated by IT&E and with this, emergency medical dispatchers can now receive and reply to these messages to promote a more expedient and efficient response to individuals who are unable to call normal emergency services. It says here, the service is operational 24/7 and is free to use on any mobile device with SMS capability across any cellular provider network.

Josh Anderson:
So and a lot of other places may have this kind of service in place, but it’s always good to see that emergency departments and other necessary services are really thinking about accessibility and building these things in. This is a great service that can definitely speed up emergency response times as the individual is able to text their need and their problem, and then be able to get the help they need in a timely fashion. We’ll put a link to this story over in our show notes.

Josh Anderson:
Our next story come to us from AT Today, and it’s written by Sarah Sarsby. It’s titled, Suite of new assistive tech products to help make independent living more achievable. So the story talks about a Welsh startup company called Care Direct Technology.

Josh Anderson:
And they launched a new suite of assistive technology products. And all these are designed to make independent living more achievable for those who may need a little bit of extra help around the house. So of course COVID-19 and all these other things have really kind of put the spotlight on nursing homes and on other kind of managed care facilities.

Josh Anderson:
And it’s kind of made people want to be able to stay in their home longer and be able to do that. But of course there are some risks and other barriers that can really kind of impede folks being able to be safely in their homes for longer ranges of time. So this Care Direct technology has made basically a kit that includes a set of IOT home sensors, a smartwatch, a personal alarm, reactive cameras with two-way microphone and a smart hub.

Josh Anderson:
All these collect data around the clock and report all of that activity into an easy to use mobile app. It says the mobile app is currently available for Apple and Android devices and is on a subscription basis. So all these different things have a lot of different sensors and a lot of different features that can report this information. It says you get instant push notifications for significant events like calls, falls, even geo-fencing breaches.

Josh Anderson:
And these notifications can go to healthcare professionals, families, care providers, really anyone to allow them to remotely monitor and actually speak to their loved one across the devices. The digital devices, such as the smartwatch and the personal alarm, which would be of course worn by the individual, work on both wifi and 4G, meaning that they can go anywhere outside the home.

Josh Anderson:
The personal alarm is actually waterproof. It’s able to be worn in the shower. So that way, if there’s a fall while bathing, it will actually send that alert to the caregiver, family member who ever it is. This means that if somebody is knocked unconscious or otherwise unable to press the assistance button, the assistance button still gets pressed on its own.

Josh Anderson:
It says that the company did keep accessibility in mind, as the smart hub and the smart watch are both voice controlled via Amazon Alexa. Sorry if I just turned on anyone’s device. So this is going to allow people to dictate shopping lists and have that sent to the carer across the network so that they’ll know what kind of items perhaps to buy on their way over to visit.

Josh Anderson:
Of course, they can also access news, radio, other online phone information, make video calls and write text without those complicated touch interactions. Of course, in this world of cameras and microphones and everything, safety and security kind of meet at a weird impasse. So a lot of folks are like, well, it’s really great to be able to be safe in my home, but what about security? Where’s all this information going?

Josh Anderson:
So in this, they have an interview with Care Direct Technology CEO, Chris Smith. And he says in the article. “For us user security is key. We know that not everyone is comfortable with the idea of being watched. So our technology is designed to work differently.” It says here, they design the products to keep the interactions with the products very simple and secure.

Josh Anderson:
As far as for the individual actually using the devices, it helps to preserve their dignity while being able to keep them safe. As for the family or care team supporting them. It says here that the app provides a handy way of checking in from wherever you are. That way you don’t have to actually knock on the door, call or really come by all the time in order to kind of check on folks.

Josh Anderson:
Gives them that little bit of independence while still having that safety and security. So we’ve had folks on the show with some of these devices before, and it’s really something that’s becoming just a really big market. And if you really think some of the off the shelf things may work, of course, Amazon Echo devices, Google Hub Home, Facebook Portal, all these kinds of things. What can allow you to maybe drop in, be able to see what’s going on in the place as well as talk to the folks, of course, with the pandemic, everyone working from home, learning from home and all that.

Josh Anderson:
Everyone’s a master of Zoom these days and other video conferencing and video chat kind of stuff. But I really think, especially with, I mean, the cost, if anything is very prohibitive of some nursing homes. But also just being able to maybe be more in touch with family members and have that kind of peace of mind that if something does happen, you’re alerted right away without actually having to have maybe a round the clock care for someone. And really for the older individuals, sometimes it’s just nice to be able to stay in the home.

Josh Anderson:
The home that you know, not have to be in some kind of managed care facility, if it’s not 100% necessary. This can give you that peace of mind and hopefully allow folks to be able to stay independent and maybe live in their own homes a little bit longer. So I’ll put a link to this over in the show notes. And I really do feel like we’ll probably see a lot more of these kinds of things coming out here in the future, especially exacerbated and sped up by the pandemic, stay at home orders and all the other kind of weirdness going on in the world these days.

Josh Anderson:
For our final story today, I’ve got kind of a fun story over from hackaday.com. It’s written by Kristina Panos. And it’s titled, Inputs of interest: Big track mouse might make you squeal. So what I really like about this story is this is an individual looking to be able to access their computer differently, but they don’t really have a disability. So they’re essentially looking for assistive technology devices without the need for assistive technology, but it all goes back to something I was taught when I first started doing this.

Josh Anderson:
And that’s the kind of technology makes things easier for individuals without disabilities. But for individuals with disabilities, technology can make things possible. So really what the story is about, essentially just being somebody on the computer all the time, she likes to get her feet involved when using the computer. It says here that she has all kinds of different pedal inputs, all other kinds of things down there.

Josh Anderson:
So it’s actually in this article, every single letter that’s capitalized was done with a shift pedal underneath there. So she thought about what about using a mouse with her toes. What about kind of trying to do something like that? So originally tried an old Golden Tee at home machine, but really hadn’t had the time to kind of solder and wire everything in there. And that was when she found the big track mouse from Infogrip.

Josh Anderson:
So she talks about all the different things on here and actually talks about how it actually is a piece of assistive technology that may do assist individuals with different mobility challenges. Then what I really like is she starts to critique it a little bit talking about, hey the buttons on here are kind of hard to push even with my toes. So if it was someone that had some issues with mobility, maybe these buttons are just a little bit too hard to push.

Josh Anderson:
So there’s also no scroll wheel, which can be kind of a deal breaker as far as what they’re actually trying to use. But the buttons was kind of a bit of a pain and something that really wasn’t super usable. So what did they find? Well, she made it switch adapted. So she put a buddy button, put it in there so that those buttons are much easier to click with her foot.

Josh Anderson:
Now I’ve actually had individuals before who have used their feet to access the computer completely, different typing ways, different kinds of accessible switches and things put underneath there just because they really didn’t have much use of their arms but were still able to use their feet. And as far as I know, they’re still employed and still doing great at their job, essentially using their feet for everything.

Josh Anderson:
So really, this is just kind of a fun story because I really love when people, especially those in technology discover assistive technology that maybe they didn’t know existed, because if you don’t work in this field or if you don’t have a family member, a friend, or someone with a disability in your life who uses assistive technology, a lot of the times you don’t know these things are out there.

Josh Anderson:
So anyway, I’ll put a link to this over in the show notes. I just thought it was a very fun story of someone who uses technology all the time, but not necessarily assistive technology, kind of discovering assistive technology and figuring out how it can help them as well. As we continue to celebrate AAC awareness month, today we’re joined by Tricia McGee from Control Bionics, and they have developed a new GridPad Trilogy that allows for multiple access methods in one AAC device. And they’re here to tell us all about it. Tricia, welcome to the show.

Tricia McGee:
Thank you for having me.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. I’m really excited to talk about this new device, but before we do that, could you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?

Tricia McGee:
Yes. I am a speech pathologist by background. I’ve been practicing speech for a little over 20 years. I worked in a variety of settings, including acute care hospitals, rehab, nursing facilities, and several different schools. So a wide range of ages and about a little over a year ago, I found this position with Control Bionics that enabled me to continue to help people, but in a slightly different capacity.

Josh Anderson:
Very nice and then that’s kind of wild. I usually see folks that are very specialized SLPs that work with just kind of one age. So it’s nice that you’ve got that experience with all the different age groups.

Tricia McGee:
Yes, it’s definitely been beneficial in this role.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. Well, before we start talking about the GridPad Trilogy, can you tell us a little bit about Control Bionics?

Tricia McGee:
Yes, so Control Bionics is an innovative company specializing in EMG access. It was started in Australia. So we do have a headquarters in Australia and then our US headquarters is in my current home state of Ohio. It’s right outside of Cincinnati. And we have several licensed speech pathologists that act as our sales consultants and a couple that are certified ATP professionals who act as sales consultants in the US.

Tricia McGee:
And we have some speech pathology and engineers in Australia acting as sales consultants over there. We have a very dedicated technical support team in both offices that are available basically 24/7 because of the two different time zones to help our users and therapists supporting the users with any technical issues. And we also have a very supportive funding team that helps mainstream that process to make it as easy on the families and the therapist as possible.

Josh Anderson:
Well, the reason we’ve got you here today is let’s talk about the GridPad Trilogy. First of all, what is it?

Tricia McGee:
So the GridPad is our newest offering with the Trilogy devices. We have our original Trilogy, which is a slightly smaller version. And then the GridPad is a device from SmartBox that we now offer our NeuroNode technology on. So it is a speech generating device that when paired with our NeuroNode technology gives you multiple access methods.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. And what are those access methods that are available?

Tricia McGee:
So you can access the device in a traditional eye gaze, so you can set your dwell, your blink to activate with just the eyes. The NeuroNode is a small wearable EMG component that uses either EMG technology or spatial technology, which I can get into a little bit further down that will allow you to access the device either with or without the eyes.

Tricia McGee:
So if you are able to use your eyes to scan across the screen, you can use that as your scanning mode and then select with the wearable EMG technology with just a small muscle movement. So for instance, if you have it on your hand and you can wiggle your thumb, your eyes can do the scanning and then wiggle your thumb and that’s your selection.

Tricia McGee:
And then if the eyes are not an option for scanning or traditional eye gaze, we can put it in the third mode, which is just utilizing the EMG for scanning and selecting. So you would use that muscle movement. It would start your Row-Column scanning or your cell by cell scanning. And then you would use that movement again to make your selection.

Tricia McGee:
And then of course being a traditional speech generating device, you could always use direct selection with the device. However, most of our clients have more complicated bodies where they need that alternate access method.

Josh Anderson:
And we’ve talked about eye gaze and everything here on the show before, but I don’t think we’ve talked about the NeuroNodes. So you kind of started talking about it, but go ahead, elaborate just a little bit more about how that’s able to control the device. I know you said a little bit of movement, but a little bit of movement where? Where all can that be attached?

Tricia McGee:
So it can go just about anywhere on the body, because it can be adhered to the body in multiple ways. So the unit itself is about the size of an Oreo cookie, and it has two modes in it. One being EMG mode that is going to pick up on the electrical impulse running through whichever muscle group we place it over.

Tricia McGee:
The other mode is spatial where it is picking up just any movement in space. So lateral, anterior, posterior or up and down. It can be worn on the body with a velcroband that comes in an adjustable size. And that’s great if we’re going to put it on a hand or wrist or a forearm, even a quad muscle to pick up a heel raise or over the foot for a toe tap or a toe wiggle.

Tricia McGee:
And it doesn’t even need to be over skin if we’re going to put it in spatial mode. So you can wear it over a shoe or a piece of clothing. If the band is not an option, because it’s going to go on a different place on the body. So let’s say we have somebody using a shoulder shrug. It’s not going to fit very well over that shoulder and the band. We have adhesive electrodes, either a disc shaped one, that’s like a tripod electrode that can just stick to the skin or the clothing and capture the movement but also allow for some of those more awkward places.

Tricia McGee:
We have a headband that can be worn around the head, if we have somebody that wants to do a head turn or a head tilt. And then we also have individual lead wire electrodes. So those are the ones that you might be more familiar with seeing them used in medical settings, three individual lead wires that come off of the NeuroNode and they would have sticky electrodes attached to the ends.

Tricia McGee:
And those would be for people that need to use more of a facial placement. So we have a lot of users that if they have a progressive illness and they’ve lost some of the bigger movements that we may have started with in hand or feet, we’ll place them on the face. So we capture eyebrow raise with those lead wire electrodes. We can put them on the temple and capture a jaw clench.

Tricia McGee:
We can put them on the jaw and even capture a tongue protrusion, pucker or smile, mouth opening or closing. So we really can put it almost anywhere in the body that we have just a slight repeatable movement. And in some of our users, the movement isn’t even visible, but it’s sensitive enough that it picks it up.

Josh Anderson:
Wow that’s pretty incredible. And I know some folks, even they use eye-gaze systems have difficulty with the dwell, with the blink or those kinds of things.

Tricia McGee:
Correct.

Josh Anderson:
[inaudible 00:20:19] little bit of movement there and that’s excellent that you thought to make it kind of connect to anything. So yeah, it really sounds like as long as there’s any control at all, you’re able to control the device. So, that’s-

Tricia McGee:
Correct. And because the settings are so customized to that individual, there’s a… It’s called the NeuroNode Controller app, and it’s a graph where we set the threshold for activation and then rest because that’s tailored so sensitively to the individual, we can change that as they progress, or we can change it from user to user. So someone with high tone is still going to be able to use the device because we would set the threshold for activation higher and overcome that high tone that they may be experiencing. Where somebody has significant weakness, like as an ALS progresses, we would set that threshold for activation lower.

Josh Anderson:
That’s excellent. I like how it has the three different controls, because then it can kind of grow with the individual. Originally they could use touch just as they kind of lose their voice, but then as more and more starts to go, they’ve got those other access methods so they can stick with the same device they’re used to without having to buy and learn a whole new piece.

Tricia McGee:
Correct. And they can even change the access method in the same day. I’ve had people tell me that they start with using the eyes for scanning in the morning, but then as their eyes fatigue later in the day, they change to the Row-Column scanning and just use the NeuroNode. So even day to day, they can use it in a different method, as well as different access points on the body. If you have more than one place where we can pick up a signal, they may use one and then just change it as they feel they need to.

Josh Anderson:
Tricia, I know the NeuroNodes, not just available on the GridPad Trilogy, but also on a few other things. Could you kind of go over those with us?

Tricia McGee:
Correct. So the GridPad Trilogy, like I said, is our newest pairing. In the GridPad, we’ll have IR built in, louder speakers built in, it has an extended battery life and it has the Gorilla glass and extremely durable mounting. So that might be a great solution for your kids in school. It will take more abuse in a classroom setting, so to speak, but it does make for a heavier device.

Tricia McGee:
Our original offering was on the Trilogy Lite. So it is a Surface Pro device and it does have durable casing, but without the built in IR, an extended battery pack and speaker, it is a much, much lighter device. And a lot of people that are looking for more portability like that. It’s also a bit of a faster processing speed in the computer.

Tricia McGee:
So people who would be using computer access to do schoolwork or work might find that one more to their liking. And then you can add on a Bluetooth speaker or an external IR to that one as well. And then both of those are able to come with either the EyeTech TM5 mini or the Alea camera. So you can swap those out if you have a preference there.

Tricia McGee:
And then finally, actually our original device offering is on an iOS system. So obviously on iOS, you don’t a capability for eye gaze, but you could use that with the internal scanning of iOS, as well as a head tracker. And then the NeuroNode graph would be available on all three of those devices. And that would look the same regardless of the device that you get.

Josh Anderson:
Could you tell us a story of someone that’s been helped by this technology?

Tricia McGee:
Sure, I’d love to. I think my most prominent ones that stick out to me are my clients with ALS. I work with a lot of kids as well, and though a lot of the children, they’re developing language. And so it’s great to help them develop language. And I think for me, the ones that stick out the most are my adopts, especially with ALS because I’m giving them something back when they have been able to communicate and still have so much that they want to say, but don’t have an access method to do that.

Tricia McGee:
Giving them a way to communicate is just overwhelmingly joyful. So when ALS progresses, a lot of times we’ll get calls from people who have had a previous eye gaze system who can no longer access it, or they’ve had a traditional switch that they can no longer access. And being that this takes such little movement to activate, I’ve been able to help. And we as a company have been able to help many people be able to use devices again, just with such a slight movement.

Tricia McGee:
So I have one person that is in particular to me that was very frustrated because his eyes were not working any longer to access eye-gaze. So to be able to go out, find that he could activate this device by using eyebrow raise with the sticky electrodes and use the device again was just amazing.

Josh Anderson:
That is excellent. Tricia if our listeners want to find out more about Control Bionics or the GridPad Trilogy, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Tricia McGee:
Our website is controlbionics.com. We also have a YouTube page under Control Bionics that has some videos as some of our users on there.

Josh Anderson:
We’ll put all that information down in the show notes. Tricia McGee, thank you so much for coming on today, telling us about Control Bionics, and more importantly about the GridPad Trilogy and the different access methods, including the NeuroNode.

Tricia McGee:
Thank you for having me.

Josh Anderson:
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? If you do call our listener line at (317) 721-7124. Shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAproject, or check us out on Facebook. Are you looking for a transcript or show notes?

Josh Anderson:
Head on over to our website at www.eastersealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the accessibility channel. For more shows like this, plus so much more head over to accessibilitychannel.com. The views expressed by our guests are not necessarily that of this host or the INDATA project.

Josh Anderson:
This has been your Assistive Technology Update. I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in Indianapolis, Indiana. Thank you so much for listening and we’ll see you next time.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.