AT&T Foundry solution is music to a veteran’s ears
July 23, 2019
Four years ago, Israel special-forces medic Ohad Ben Ishay was mortally wounded during a military operation when shrapnel from an explosion penetrated his protective gear, causing devastating damage to the left and frontal lobes of his brain. Ohad was categorized as fatally injured and was not expected to survive.
Miraculously defying his prognosis, Ohad woke from a medically induced coma after being sedated and on a ventilator for six weeks. Having lost motor function in the entire right side of his body, Ohad underwent nearly two years of demanding physical therapy and rehabilitation to re-learn almost everything – including how to speak, eat, stand and read.
This year Ohad is one of 19 incredible veterans who participated in the “Makers for Heroes” program, an annual three-day event organized by a non-profit, Restart. The program brings together the community and technology worlds to work with participating veterans to devise technological solutions never before seen on the market to assist people with disabilities.
The AT&T Foundry in Ra’anana partnered with Amdocs to send a team to participate in this year’s event. The team of “makers” together devised a solution tailored to a unique request by Ohad, who prior to his injury found peace when playing the piano. He hoped to one day again perform his favorite melodies on the piano – not just for pleasure but for rehabilitative purposes as well (playing will strengthen his arm physically, and memorizing musical notes will help improve his memory).
Despite Ohad’s extraordinary recovery, he was unable to regain functional mobility in his right arm. When the AT&T Foundry first met Ohad, he assumed he would forever be unable to use his damaged arm – much less to play the piano. However, the AT&T Foundry-Amdocs team had a different plan. Combining their ingenuity, new technology and good old elbow grease, the team developed a hybrid wearable technology-hand rest solution to help Ohad once again play the piano.
Working with a new startup called Wearable Devices by Mudra Inspire, the AT&T Foundry-Amdocs team built a special bracelet for Ohad’s right arm, using Mudra’s wrist-worn technology device. Sensors in the device detect nervous system biometric signals as they pass through the wrist and sophisticated algorithms translate these signals into user-intended gestures. The team created a piano app to run on the device to sense movement and pressure, as well as detect subtle finger movements and gestures.
In addition to the wearable wrist device, the AT&T Foundry-Amdocs team built a moveable supportive surface to help Ohad hold up his hand while he plays. Using shoulder movements to control its motion, Ohad can glide the wheeled surface horizontally back-and-forth along a virtual keyboard, orienting his fingers above his desired piano keys. Biometric input from the wearable wrist device then signals the app to digitally play the selected keys.
During the 72-hour event (and with the help of some pre-event research and brainstorming), the AT&T Foundry-Amdocs team proved miracles can happen when talented people leverage innovative technologies to support a common purpose. Not only does the team’s solution end Ohad’s forced four-year music-making hiatus, it also provides hope to other piano-loving people with disabilities. While the initial prototype was created specifically for Ohad, the ultimate goal of the Makers for Heroes event is to quickly scale the solution and make it accessible to veterans and people with disabilities everywhere.