Open Source Superhumans

C3 | Wed 23 Jan | 10:40 a.m.–11:25 a.m.

Presented by

  • Jonathan Oxer

    Jon has been hacking on both hardware and software since he was a little tacker. Most recently he's been focusing more on the Open Hardware side, co-founding Freetronics as a result of organising the first Arduino Miniconf at LCA2010 and designing the Arduino-based payloads that were sent into orbit in 2013 on board satellites ArduSat-X and ArduSat-1. His books include "Ubuntu Hacks" and "Practical Arduino", and he produces the "SuperHouseTV" DIY home automation channel on YouTube.


Learn how Open Source hardware and software can be used in a wide variety of assistive technologies, including wheelchair control, environmental systems, robotics, communication, prosthetics, games, and telepresence. Technology can be used to dramatically improve the lives of people with physical disabilities. Often this takes the form of medical technology, which is a highly regulated field involving very high development costs and long product lifecycles. Medical technology is a critical element in supporting people with physical disabilities, and generally focuses on solving problems that are life-threatening or can otherwise be classified as having a medical imperative. Outside of medical technology that directly interacts with the human body, there is an enormous field of assistive technology that can be used to improve the lives of people both physically and mentally but does not have the same level of regulatory overhead. Technologies that are frequently dismissed as gimmicks or toys, such as home automation systems and IoT devices, can be life-changing for people with disabilities. Not just toys for rich lazy people, home automation can make the difference between an individual being able to live independently or requiring residential care. Even more importantly, it can place the power back in the hands of the individual and give them the ability to control the world around them instead of relying on the help of others. Because the needs of individuals can vary dramatically, the Open Source ethos of modularity, improvement, adaptation, and sharing is ideally suited to assistive technologies. Existing projects can be rapidly remixed and modified to suit specific requirements by combining open source software, hardware, and fabrication including 3D printing and CNC machining. Open Source technologies can give people with disabilities new powers far beyond what an average human can achieve, turning them into DIY superhumans.