Inspiration

My mom is an amazing and endearing woman who raised me and my 7 siblings. My siblings and I often go on family trips and unfortunately, my mom can't join us because of health issues. Every time I'm on a family trip, I can't help but feel sad that my mom has to stay at home wishing she could see the sights we see, join the conversations we'll have, and spending time with her kids whom have moved out of the house.

My mom was not the only person that motivated me to address this problem. By 2030, 1 in 4 people will be over the age of 65 in developed nations and nearly half of seniors in nursing homes report depression. The leading causes of their depression is loneliness and the neglect they experience from their family. With an increasingly aging population and cultural trends, it seems like this problem will just get worse and worse.

What it does

Ohana is a portable telepresence smartphone mount (PTSM) designed to enable friends and family to painlessly experience activities together. Ohana PTSM makes it practical for users to stream their entire day's adventure from their smartphone by including an 8,000 mAh battery. Unlike other streaming products, Ohana encourages viewers to interact with the streamer by including a powerful speaker and 3 degree of freedom mount that enables the viewer to adjust who or what they are looking at. Ohana PTSM will only be practical with the advent of 5G technology which will enable mass high resolution streaming. 5G will allow viewers to experience beautiful places such as Disneyland or Paris just if they were there themselves. Currently, LTE suffers from bandwidth issues, data limits, and speed leading to unremarkable video quality which all cripples Ohana's current market viability..

Ohana PTSM is a device you can attach to the strap of your backpack, on one of your shoulder, or on your head. Different strap locations have different pros and cons described briefly below:

Backpack strap:

  • Most discrete, attracts minimal attention.
  • Allows from limited up and down and side to side camera motion.
  • Restricts usage of rear camera.

Shoulder:

  • Not discrete.
  • Enables the wearer to make eye contact with the viewer.
  • Allows for full range camera motion.
  • Enables rear camera.

Head:

  • Not discrete.
  • Allows for full range camera motion.
  • Enables rear camera.
  • Best option for unrestricted and unobstructed viewing.
  • Tall people may encounter problems with doors.

How I built it

I first used arduino uno board as the basis. Then I soldered header pins onto a prototyping board. This allowed me to connect the 3 servo motors I used to the only 5V port I had on my arduino. Then I connected my arduino's GND to the prototyping board for the servo motors. I connected the 9, 10, and 11 digital ports directly to the servo motors. I wired my HT 10 bluetooth module to my arduino next and I connected the 7 and 8 digital pin to the HT 10. I connected the arduino to my 8000 mAH battery through the usb port. I attached a speaker through micro-usb next. I needed to write the firmware for the arduino next to control the servo motor. I positioned the y and z axis to 90 degrees (midpoint). I had to position my x axis to 30 degrees (a compromise I reached since my motors only had a 180 degree range of motion). I attached my non motor components to my battery surface using HandiTak putty adhesive because I wanted to be able reuse these components. I superglued my servo motors together with a selfie mount at the end. I used velcro as a temporary strap solution. Shoulder straps and head straps are a solved problem so I didn't want to waste time designing them.

Then I wrote an bluetooth API for the arduino to receive commands from the iOS app. Then I started on the iOS app. I quickly realized that a completely functional iOS app was impossible. I felt there was no point in coding a sign-in/sign-up process, connection flow, because there is a plethora of solutions on the market. Thus I wanted to focus on establishing a streaming experience right when the app opens. I had to write a bluetooth API so that my iOS app can communicate via bluetooth. Then I would send the commands and do position validation so that no illegal configuration would ever be achieved.

Afterwards, I had to spin up a web server on aws and write the client website in nodejs. I decided to go with a website instead of a client iOS app because I wanted to make the client as accessible to all seniors as possible. Then I had to write an api in nodejs to handle the processing of mount commands from the viewer side.

Challenges I ran into

Two friends I recruited to help me with this hackathon led me on and bailed on me last minute. I had to try to create the device and iOS app in under 48 hours by myself.

It was also challenging to design a viable solution that would help the elderly market feel more connected with their loved ones. At first I wanted to create a robotic companion but after talking to my target market, I realized that people want to grow old with friends, not robots. I also explored VR telepresence but the senior people I interviewed got motion sickness after trying a Google cardboard. I realized that my target market wanted something familiar, easy to use, and with a low learning curve.

One design challenge was how to position the servo motors so that my mount can be fully functional and versatile in different orientations. I wanted the camera to be able to reach landscape and portrait mode as well as move up and down and left to right in all strap positions. I used a kinematics to model the operation space and visualize the possible joint configurations in python. I was able to come up with a design that works very well for the backpack strap, shoulder strap, and head strap configurations.

Another challenge was sourcing the components for the hackathon. When sourcing the components, I had to be meticulous about how they would affect the overall design and I wanted to keep cost low. I had to be meticulous about what components I used and how they would affect the design. I ordered all the components a couple days before the hackathon and I wasn't sure if my theory would work out in practice.

Integrating bluetooth with iOS and Arduino was more complex and time consuming than I anticipated.

Designing a minimal iOS app that could showcase what the Ohana PTSM could do for people was another challenge.

Other challenges included enabling remote control of the PTSM by the viewers as well as integrating a video conferencing solution.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

What I'm most proud of is that I honestly believe that the Ohana PTSM can dramatically change American culture for the better. If adopted on a mass scale, we can create a culture focused around being able to share and maintain common experiences with the people we care about, but whom would be neglected otherwise.

I am also proud about the versatility and the practicalness of my hardware design. In addition, I believe that my product can be quickly made ready for commercialization when 5G becomes more universal. When I compare my product to existing market solutions, I feel like I have invented something as transformative as the GoPro for the camera market.

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Aside for ideation and ordering the components, I'm extremely proud of how I was able to arrive at a complete hardware and software solution by myself in under 48 hours.

What I learned

I learned that more I worked on Ohana, the more confident I would be that my creation could help millions of people. I discovered that as long as I continually work to improve Ohana, it'll soon become a viable business opportunity so that I can sustainably help seniors.

What's next for Ohana

As the elderly population continues to rise, I deeply feel the urgency to help this demographic. As a result, I think Ohana is too important of a solution to get shelved like most hackathon projects.

I will start looking for potential investors interested in tackling the loneliness epidemic among seniors. The elderly market is currently a technologically underserved market that is growing in population and technical competence. I will need to file a provisional patent for Ohana within the next week.

Additional features we can add to Ohana is a memory card to also support all-day recording. This could be attractive to content creators, vloggers, and social media influencers. Ohana can also target long-distance couples. I also plan to add AI features to create highlight videos of people's day or vacation trips. I also hope that 5G gets fast enough that if you lose connection, you can record all the content and upload it to your viewers immediately when you regain connection.

I named the product Ohana because "Ohana means family. And family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten."

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