Geneva HackaHealth: collaboration and creativity in health technology

This weekend, HackaHealth 2020 brought together over 70 engineers, tech and health experts to help people with disabilities find solutions to the challenges they face in their everyday lives.

For 48 hours, the hackers worked day and night at Campus Biotech to create prototypes and gadgets to make daily tasks such as typing, dressing, drawing and cycling easier for participants, known as 'challengers'.

“We were impressed by what they managed to do in 48 hours,” said Arnaud Desvachez, one of the co-founders of HackaHealth. “It was a success.”

Challengers included Sohan, who cannot speak and uses a digital interface to communicate. He approached the HackaHealth team hoping to find a way to interact with his tablet more easily. Over the weekend, the hackers developed a solution using image processing on the camera of his tablet which allows Sohan to move the mouse directly with the movement of his hands.

Liam was another of the challengers, who has an agenesis on his right hand that makes it difficult for him to do many activities he loves, such as holding a ski pole or playing the guitar. Ahead of the event, hackers had already designed a prosthetic using a 3D printer, and they developed it over the weekend so that Liam can now directly attach a small tool with a guitar pick to his finger.

“Hackathons are the perfect way to incubate a project,” said Alec Chevrot, who worked on Liam's project during the event. “You can start with one project and have no ideas how to do it ... then you have many people with different backgrounds working on it who don't think the same way.”

At the end of the weekend, the hackers and challengers presented their projects to the rest of the team, during a ceremony that was live-streamed to friends and family at home. Many of the prototypes will now be adapted and developed over the coming months.

The next HackaHealth event will be taking place in March 2021, and will again invite people with a passion for digital and health technology to work with people living with disabilities to help find solutions to improve their daily lives.

“The goal ... is to gather people together with the same interests about disabilities and work on inclusion,” said Desvachez. “The challengers ... are as important as the other team members, and it's really a time for people to share, play and have fun together, and if you find a solution that works, that's the best.”