How does liberating the data from a sports body monitor impact a baby’s health in a remote clinic? In MAKE vol. 29, the “DIY Superhuman” issue, hardware hacker Kyle Machulis explains how his OpenYou project is figuring out how to hack into mass-manufactured consumer biosensor devices and access the data they collect. This is great news for DIY and extreme environment medical technology.
Last summer our team was in Ocotal, Nicaragua visiting a local hospital’s delivery room to check out their medical equipment. On the surface, the beige and aqua boxes looked clean and neatly arranged. Closer inspection revealed that ward’s only patient monitor was damaged. Patient monitors are those machines that you see at an intensive care unit with multiple graphs showing blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and sometimes a baby’s heart rate and other vital signs. In this case, the model was older but the biosensors still worked. The problem was that the mechanism that unrolled the roll of paper for plotting on, like with a polygraph machine or a seismograph, was damaged long ago. This meant that the monitor could only display an instantaneous reading on its LED numerical display, and the doctor could not see a time-plot of the baby’s ongoing progress.
What if we could simply intercept the signal that is sent to the instantaneous display and log it electronically on a cheap LCD? How do we begin to tap into the data feed? And why can’t we do that for lots of other devices: pedometers, blood pressure monitors, spirometers, pulse oximeters? Fast forward to page 32 of MAKE vol. 29. Reading that, I saw that Kyle Machulis’ hardware hacking work could tap and liberate the same type of data trapped in that device in Ocotal, Nicaragua.
I visited the openYou.org website and found recipes for hacking into medical devices mostly aimed at the Quantified Self (QS) crowd, but these translate into fantastic applications in developing world, hand-me downs begging to be liberated. Our next goal is to look at how the available libraries can tap into the available inventory of medical equipment being used our Nicaraguan partner’s local clinics. Pulse oximeters with a USB port can be found for as little as $50 online. Using Kyle’s growing libraries of hardware unlockers could turn these devices into exciting biosensors.
We have the technology (to quote The Six Million Dollar Man
), but commercial tools for exploring, assisting, and augmenting our bodies really can approach a price tag of $6 million. Medical and assistive tech manufacturers must pay not just for R&D, but for expensive clinical trials, regulatory compliance, and liability — and doesn’t help with low pricing that these devices are typically paid for through insurance, rather than purchased directly. But many gadgets that restore people’s abilities or enable new “superpowers” are surprisingly easy to make, and for tiny fractions of the costs of off-the-shelf equivalents. MAKE Volume 29
, the “DIY Superhuman” issue, explains how.
BUY OR SUBSCRIBE!
Jon Danforth, organizer of the Mini Maker Faire North Carolina, wrote in to let us know about a cool project, a QR Code Quilt, from one of Mini Maker Faire North Carolina’s sponsors, Spoonflower:
A QR code, or Quick Response code is a somewhat new technology that, when scanned by a smart phone or iPad app, takes you to a website or texts you with more information about a product. You see them everywhere now, from cereal boxes to bus stops. From the moment Jake got his new phone, he was obsessed with them. I remember he used to talk about how production at Spoonflower could be more efficient if we could just walk around scanning QR codes to look up orders and find out information about rolls of fabric. As for me, I just liked how they resembled little patchwork quilts. So when the staff challenge was announced, the idea of making a QR code quilt seemed perfect.
Cutting and polishing gemstones seems kind of like machining: Once you have access to the proper tools and understand how to use them, getting good results is more a matter of knowledge, patience, and attention to detail than of developing great manual skill. Accordingly, this six part instructional video series from jeweler John Bailey focuses more on theory and orders of operations than on the physical use of the tools themselves.
The first video, embedded above, explains the general process of “meetpoint faceting,” as it’s known, in terms of the familiar standard round brilliant (SRB) cut. The remaining five in the series go on to discuss more advanced concepts. The program John is using onscreen is called gemcad, which is quite old, at this point (“Windows 95 or later”), but still seems to be highly regarded and widely used in the community. [Thanks, Tara!]
Meetpoint Faceting #1 – the SRB
Dave Heisserer and Dillon Hodapp of Minneapolis, MN, are building the Jiggernaut, a crowdfunded bike-welding jig:
Dave and I have wanted to build our own bicycle frames for years. Being bike enthusiast as well as handy people, there’s just something about a unique, hand crafted frame that resonated with us.
While researching frame building, we discovered that there’s a tool called a frame jig that is really nice to have when building your own frames. Basically, the frame jig holds all of the tubes in 3D space while you fit and weld them. We found some pre-made frame jigs for sale, but they were over a thousand dollars, which was more than we wanted to spend on a hobby that we’d never tried before. We racked our brains for ways to solve the problem and realized that we could probably build one out of MDF (inexpensive and flat) and have the pieces CNC routed (automated manufacturing). After prototyping a few jigs and building our first frame we knew that there had to be other people out there in the same boat as us.
The guys’ Kickstarter campaign has been funded but you can can still grab a jig for $299 including shipping, or $499 with all the tube you need to build your own frame.