A team of students from University of Waterloo recently won the TREAT prize for the “Technology Most Likely to Become Commercially Available” at the 2019 RESNA Student Design Challenge as well as second place overall. RESNA is the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America and their conference was held during the RehabWeek multiconference in Toronto, June 24-28, 2019.
Systems Design Engineering students Hannah Sennik, Laura Bingeman, Abiramy Kuganesan, and Nisa Sial developed Reka: Vocabulary suggestions for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices. Reka leverages data from sensors, such as GPS, Bluetooth and camera, and uses real-time information to provide relevant word suggestions to the user based on their personal interests and surrounding environment. By using social and environmental information to automatically customize device vocabulary, the technology will support the improvement of speed and quality of AAC output delivery. Users will have access to a vocabulary that will grow with them and the world around them, facilitating communication for people who face challenges communicating using speech.
As one of six finalists, the team won a trip to the RESNA annual conference to present their design. Along with the $500 TREAT prize money, the team is invited to utilize TREAT program resources to help accelerate development of both the technology and market potential of their device. “Reka is a unique advancement of augmentative communication that has the potential of significantly increasing the speed of communication for people who use AAC devices,” states Jerry Weisman, MSME, ATP, RET, member of the TREAT Leadership Team and past President of RESNA, who represented TREAT as a competition judge. “The team incorporated stakeholder feedback into the design and testing process and addressed challenges associated with cost and payment.”
For more information about the RESNA Student Design Competition finalists and prize winners visit: https://www.resna.org/news-events/annual-meeting/students/student-design-competition/2019-student-design-challenge