Maker Trend in Rome: Affordable, Accessible Assistive Technologies

Maker News
Maker Trend in Rome: Affordable, Accessible Assistive Technologies

The age-old adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” takes a brilliant humanitarian twist in the maker realm. When we spoke with Maker Faire Rome curator Alessandro Ranellucci last month, he mentioned that one of the emerging themes of the fifth annual Faire, coming up on December 1–3, is assistive technology. There’s currently a robust and diverse array of maker projects in this realm, with more being added leading up to the event. More and more makers are using their skills, intelligence, networks, and innovation to serve the needs of people with disabilities. By and large, the focus across the board is affordability, open-source design, and accessibility to all. If there’s one thing that gives us hope for the future, it’s the generosity and brilliance of makers. Here are 10 of the many assistive tech projects that will be on exhibit at this year’s Maker Faire Rome, the European Edition.


A.R.T.S. is a life-saving device consisting of a orthopedic collar with an automatic system for tracheal tube drilling. The system is connected to an automatic assisted-breathing dispenser that guarantees the survival of the injured person until rescue personnel arrive. A.R.T.S. can fill the patient’s lungs with the right amount of air and, thanks to the synergistic work of the microprocessor-controlled solenoid valves, induce respiration. A vocal guide informs the operator about the state of the patient’s vital signs. Created by students at Istituto Giua Cagliari’s Hi-Lab, a scholastic research group whose work is based on a fundamental respect for scientific methods.

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Out-of-the-box, BITalino includes easy-to-use software and hardware blocks with sensors for electrocardiography (ECG), electromyography (EMG), electrodermal activity (EDA), electroencephalography (EEG), motion, and ambient light. Each individual block can be snapped off and combined to prototype anything you want, and you can connect other sensors, including custom designs. BITalino is for students, teachers, makers, artists, researchers, and corporate R&D — no electrical skills required.

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EPTIME is a wristband aimed at helping those who supervise epilepsy patients to manage seizures by monitoring and communicating information like their duration, seriousness, and the need for administering drugs. The device is particularly suitable for the parents or caregivers of epileptic children. When a seizure starts, the caregiver can activate the bracelet just by pressing it. Information about the duration of the seizures is delivered through the surface of the device, through a color change.

When the critical duration of the crisis is reached (typically about 5 minutes), the surface of the device turns red, the light starts pulsating, and the bracelet starts vibrating to warn the caregiver to administer the drugs to the patient. The caregiver can record the end of the seizure by pressing the wristband for a second time. After the recording, the device gives a feedback to communicate how serious the seizure was (using different colors according to its duration). All the information recorded by EPTIME is sent to a digital online diary embedded in a mobile app, which registers the details about the crisis, its geo-localization, the drug administration, and the timing of the events.


Innovative startup Du It has created a sensory environment that aims to reduce the stress of being in hospital environments,  particularly for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and cognitive disabilities. It represents a calming environment for women who have been victims of violence and for professionals, to improve their psychological comfort and to reduce high level of stress. This interactional automation system allow users to adapt and customize the environment in response to individual patients’ needs. It ensures better regulation of arousal and less behavior problems, and it improves treatment accessibility, safety, and effectiveness.


BionIT Labs’ Adam’s Hand is a myoelectric hand prosthesis for amputees or people with congenital upper limb deficiencies. Adam’s Hand is based upon a patent-pending mechanism that allows the actuation of all five fingers with just one motor (instead of the five or six motors generally used in other prostheses), which cuts down the cost, weight, and dimensions of the device, making it extremely simple for the user to control. The shell is 3D printed, making it highly customizable.


Blind Helper Toolkit is a school project that involves the development of electronic devices that can help blind people.
Blind Helper Braille was the first designed device. This is a low-cost braille printer designed for school use, and many of its components are made with 3D printing. Students are also developing other devices to help blind people, such as an easy-to-use audiobooks reader and an electronic dropper for medicines. All Blind Helper Toolkit projects use the open-source Arduino board. The team is comprised of several students from two classes at technical high school Rita Levi-Montalcini Institute.


At the request of an Italian paralympics team coach, mechanical engineers Michele Bombardieri and Simone Fontanesi have designed a low-cost, modifiable racing wheelchair to enable a wider audience to participate. Currently, the only option is expensive and custom-made to suit individual disability and body dimensions. The BF Racing Wheelchair is designed to be easily adapted to different disabilities and body dimensions, with the goal of providing a low-cost device to schools, rehab units, sports organizations, or private citizens.


Bio-Occhiali glasses, the creation of Caterina Polini, are a mini-gym for the eyes, made entirely of natural materials, wood or hemp. Instead of a standard lens, these glasses create a stenopeic effect using a unique drilling pattern that forces your eyes to look for the best image through the holes, releasing muscle chains that start from the eyes down the cervix and the entire spine, correctly repositioning the body in space, thus increasing visual perception, balance, and motor performance. All this can be verified in a few moments of visual and postural testing.


Holey fabricates 3D-printable orthopedic braces that solve all plaster cast problems and can replace both prefabricated and complicated custom-made braces. The process for creating a brace begins with 3D-scanning the limb through their custom scanner, specially developed to be use by medical staff. The scanner can acquire a 360° scan in 30 seconds automatically. Then, the software, starting with previously acquired geometries, automatically builds a 3D model of the brace. Finally, then it can be 3D printed. Braces can also accommodate sensors inside them which can monitor patients stats and collect data for further analysis.


MadFlex is a ultra-light composite material, flexible on the one hand and crushproof and resistant on the other. Thanks to its biocompatibility, its ability to control vibrations and absorb shocks, and the possibility to thermoform it in any desired shape, MadFlex can be used to redefine the mechanical limits of many products. Now, Composite Research (CoRe) presents its first MadFlex prototype: a folding wheelchair, superior in performances and lightness, which combines the comfort and the stability of rigid models with the ease of transport of the alternatives with a fabric seat.

To see these inspiring projects and hundreds more, meet the amazing makers who made them, and be inspired to find the maker inside yourself, head to the Maker Faire Rome website









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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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