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Honda Introduces IGNITION; Develops Accelerator For Visually Impaired

Sarrah M

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There are few things in life quite like technology finding solutions to age-old problems. For individuals with mobility impairments, be they related to vision or foot issues, there might be a solution coming to a store near you in the not-so-distant future. In Japan, the team at Honda has established one of their first major startup accelerators of the new century, putting Ignition into the world as they target newer mobility business ventures. With a focus on research, marketing, and funding, the Ignition accelerator aims to launch its first of (presumably) many ventures, Ashirase.

Ashirase – Introducing Mobility Solutions

Ashirase is the first company to be borne of the Ignition startup accelerator. The goal of the business is to develop a special in-shoe navigation system that helps support those struggling with visual impairments. While there have been a few demonstrations of the new navigation system already, the company aims to launch its final viable product before the end of March in 2023.

This isn’t the first time that the team at Honda has set its sights on addressing the lives of pedestrians who need assistance. Other Honda inventions for impaired individuals developed by Honda include the Shoulder Riding Robot Pal, a robot that learns your child’s routine and advocates for safety measures at cross-walks or when vehicles are in the area. This device was created due in large part to Japan’s high pedestrian mortality rate, losing 1.1 per 100k residents, still lower than the United States.

Swinging our focus back to the Ashirase mobility device, we can see through early demonstrations that the device will be fitted around each individual foot. Once attached, the motion sensor will pair with an application or your smartphone device. From there, the application and the motion sensor will work in concert to detect routes while vibrating to signal which direction to walk forward in.

The device aims to provide mobility assistance to the visually impaired, providing a stronger sense of support and confidence as they acclimate to their routines. While it is unlikely that a walking GPS will ever replace the traditional cane or walking stick, this visual tool helps to extend the depth of support available for those that wish it. By tracking the items AROUND the individual, this walking assistance device provides an extra layer of confidence for those that need it.

Right now, the Japanese government estimates that some 1.6 million Japanese citizens are struggling with vision impairments. According to some semi-alarming estimates, more than 2 million Japanese citizens will require additional visual assistance before the year 2030 is over.

The Ignition and Ashirase collaboration grew out of a need from the developers. Pointing to a family member who had suffered from an accident, the developers at Ignition and Ashirase would put their whole energy toward these mobility assistance devices. According to their developers the hope is that their visual support device helps individuals to “wholeheartedly realize the freedom of mobility for visually impaired people.”

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Mozambique Gets Its Cheetahs Back

Danielle S

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The Maputo Elephant Reserve in Mozambique is a stretch of land that incorporates wet swamp, coastal areas of lakes, and grassland. The most common large wildlife sight in the area tends to be elephants that have been protected from poaching. The other big population in the same location are antelope by the thousands, with sizable herds. That makes the Reserve also an ideal location for the release of four cheetahs that have been transplanted to the Reserve to bring back the big cat to the region.

As a joint project between the National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC) of Mozambique as well as the Peace Parks Foundation, four cheetahs have been introduced to bring into the mix of the reserve natural predation as well. The cheetah as a species used to populate the entire African continent. However, today, 90% percent of that presence is gone. The reintroduction program is focused on trying to reverse that condition by re-establishing the cheetah in the Mozambique reserve and grow its numbers again.

The four cheetahs brought to the Mozambique reserve were sourced from South Africa, and immediately adapt to the reserve with its plentiful supply of antelope. With a burst speed over 100km/hour, the big cats can easily hold up on their own hunting game, even the fast antelope. However human hunting, poaching, and disease have wasted the cats’ population dramatically over the centuries, and now conservation efforts are trying to restore their populations again.

Transported by plane and truck, the four cats have had to go through a transition period to get adjusted to their new locale. That included a holding phase in a local pen for a few weeks until they were ready to release into the wider reserve itself. Much of the adjustment helps the cats realize the smells and nuances of the area as well as become adapted to the weather and noises of the reserve day and night. The cats were also purposefully mixed from different private reserves where they were raised, increasing the diversity of their local gene pool in the hopes of stronger and better offspring as the cats eventually mate.

As soon as they were released, two of the cheetahs wasted no time zipping off into the distance of the new Maputo Reserve and celebrating their new freedom. It was exactly what the programs and conservation experts wanted to see when the cages were opened in the final step of the cats’ transport. Ideally, the partnership hopes that the cheetahs will add to the attraction of the reserve for visitors to see the wildlife, thereby turning the operation in a self-sustaining system in the future. That does seem doable given the addition of the cats as well as 5,000 other species via help from the World Bank’s Mozbio Programme. To date, the total wildlife population in the Maputo reserve is somewhere between 15,000 and 17,000 individual animals.

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From a Sandwich Box to Staring Preschool

Sarrah M

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Amazing things can happen in modern medicine, and helping premature babies survive to full development and ultimately growing enough to have a normal life almost seems like pulling off a miracle. For one mother who’s baby girl was born premature, that’s exactly what her doctors pulled off.

Darcey Clegg today is now age four, all energy, big eyes and questions about the world like any preschooler getting ready for a jump to kindergarten. However, her first days were very different. At birth, Darcey only measured about the size of a sugar packet, weighing barely one pound and five ounces. Brought into the world by an emergency c-section, Darcey’s odds of surviving were not very good at all. Serious sports betters have taken on much risker-sounding positions on events that were conservative compared to the odds of Darcey’s survival.

As a three-month old preemie, Darcey represented the premier challenge at the moment for the Royal Oldham Hospital’s staff in Greater Manchester. The pediatrics team was already a well-trained group of specialists in their respective fields, but trying to keep a preemie the size of Darcey alive was the extreme challenge. They were very realistic amongst themselves about the possibilities, so when Darcey was able to not only live weeks after birth but a full two months before her hospital discharge, everybody was genuinely shocked.

All of that heart-stretching event now seems so far in the past for Gill Glegg, Darcey’s mother. Instead, she’s enjoying watching and experiencing Darcey’s first day going to school, beaming proud of her vivacious daughter’s grip on life and early childhood. Gill will never forget the size of her daughter those first few, harrowing days of life, almost like reflecting back on a dream the next day. The emotions, no surprise, tend to be overwhelming for Darcey’s mom.

Originally, Gill’s pregnancy seemed normal. It wasn’t until the 28th week during a routine maternity checkup that issues were spotted. At that point, the doctors saw negative signs that Darcey, as a fetus, was not receiving enough blood flow. Something was wrong with Gill’s placenta, the life-preserving organ that was Darcey’s physical connection to her mother. As soon as the problem was identified, Gill went from preparing to come off of work as a caterer to suddenly being an emergency patient under high monitoring and being prepped for surgery. It was the operation or losing Darcey, and everyone was in agreement Darcey needed to be saved.

Even Gill, as much as she was already attached to her unborn child, had little hope Darcey would make it at the time. However, when Gill heard her daughter’s crying when brought into the open air during the surgery, the mother wanted her daughter to live. Darcey was immediately connected to life-preserving equipment and had to have blood transfusions regularly to develop and build up a normal level of internal functions missing from being born early.

However, despite the above, Darcey did grow, develop and has now turned into a beaming, normal four-year-old kid bubbly about her new friends at school and being a living dream for her mother. To Darcey, however, her survival doesn’t even register. All she thinks about is what school is like and seeing her friends every day in class.

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A Coyote Is Rescued After Trying To Go For A Swim In San Francisco Bay

Sarrah M

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Most folks who visit Fisherman’s Wharf and the Pier 39 area of San Francisco City tend to do it on the weekend. So, for the locals, the weekdays are far better times to go for a walk, avoiding crowds and congestion, and having an open area to relax and destress. However, on a given Thursday in the middle of the week, a coyote pup somehow managed to find her way onto the urban San Francisco peninsula and then take an unhealthy dip into the San Francisco Bay’s cold waters.

The coyote has been roaming the City streets for a while, likely eating out of trash cans and similar, given how much opportunity there is in the City for scavenging. However, unlike rural areas, cities have full departments dedicated to catching stray animals and stopping them from becoming a problem for residents. So, soon enough, this particular coyote pup had an unwanted fan club in the form of the City’s animal control chasing her down. In the midst of that pursuit, the coyote pup took a wrong turn and thought to evade the control officers by jumping off the pier. The shock on the animal’s face will likely never be recorded, but she did end up in the cold water pretty quickly, to the amusement of some local seals.

The whole chase got started because the coyote got herself stuck in a resident’s backyard without a clear way out. San Francisco inner city backyards are fairly small, about the size of most family rooms in a home in most cases, so the residents were likely freaked out to suddenly find a snapping stray dog in their yard. By the time officers arrived, however, the coyote was gone. It appeared next when moving at an erratic pace in the area of Pier 39. The chase was on. The coyote was actively afraid of humans and even got herself wedged between dock parts at one point. With the officers closing in, the coyote panicked, got free and then took her leap for freedom, or a cold bath.

Not used to swimming, the coyote was immediately struggling, just trying to keep above the water and figure out where to go. A nearby boat closed in and one of the animal control officers jumped onto it to reach in and snag the coyote with a control lasso. Soon enough, the pup was out of the drink and firmly secured in the back of an animal control truck. Fortunately, however, the pup wasn’t going to maximum security. Instead, it was checked out by the city veterinarian crew, warmed up again due to suffering from hypothermia, and eventually relocated to a wild area likely south of the city and away from people.

Given the experience, it’s likely the coyote pup will never venture anywhere close to San Francisco neighborhoods again, but the animal was a bit of a different experience for the control officers. Dog-like but wiry, coyotes are extremely fast, smart, and resourceful in surviving. Folks had their hands full just trying to corral a young female in this case. And, it’s not every day they get fished out of the Bay either.

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Senior Citizen Saved After Cat’s Meow Alerts Searchers to Ravine

Danielle S

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Over the years, you’ve heard of dogs saving their owners, but a feline has proven that it doesn’t matter what type of pet you are; love conquers every situation.

It was the case for an older adult who fell deep into a ravine, and residents would not have located the woman had it not been for some seriously loud meows from her dear pet that drew the attention of community members and rescue operators.

Cats can be aloof and prefer to do whatever they desire. One cat, however, has become something of a hero after alerting rescuers to the site where its owner had fallen into a ravine.

On Saturday, crews were already searching for a missing 83-year-old woman in Bodmin, Cornwall, when neighbors helping in the search for the woman heard her pet cat Piran meowing and followed the sound.

The woman had fallen a ravine with “complicated access and uneven terrain,” according to the report, and the woman had even slipped through some barbed wire.

The older woman had come to a halt in the middle of a creek. Piran was “very persistent,” according to one of the witnesses, according to BBC News. “This was unusual,” the owner of the farm where they found Piran told media representatives.

Tamar Longmuir told reporters that, “The cat is quite loyal to its owner, and he was walking to and fro in the gateway with nonstop meowing, so I decided to go and search the maize field.”

After that, Longmuir went to the field and began calling the woman’s name. Longmuir’s cows first replied, but she later stated that she had heard the woman’s cry for help.

Longmuir told reporters at the scene that if the cat hadn’t been waiting at the field’s gate, it could have been hours before I or anyone else checked there.

“Piran, the cat, saved the day,” stated Bodmin Police. The woman was carried back up to the top on a stretcher and transferred to a local hospital, according to police.

The rescue has brought the community even closer than it already was. Neighbors constantly keep an eye and ear out for each other. However, now that everyone anticipates the older woman’s speedy recovery, the focus is on her cat, Piran.

Both the rescue workers and the community as a whole continue to laud the creature, who has a close bond with its owner. Cat’s may be self-centered, but that does not mean they don’t care for their owners.

Piran certainly proved that, and it has driven many residents to draw even closer to their pets in the event they should one day need their assistance for any reason.

Cats Give What They Get, Researchers Say

Meanwhile, contrary to popular perception, Oregon State University researchers have shown that cats build personal connections when the proximity of a caregiver makes them feel safe and calm.

“Cats that feel insecure are inclined to run into hiding or appear aloof,” said Dr. Kristyn Vitale, the study’s principal author. The researchers looked at the interaction between 108 cats and their owners.

When cats were abruptly left alone, they behaved similarly to dogs and children, according to the research.

Seventy cats were placed in an unknown room with their owners for two minutes during the trial. The owner left the room for another two minutes.

According to the researchers, 64.3 percent of the cats showed symptoms of “secure attachment,” meaning they grew more relaxed when their owner returned while others became unduly attached to their owners or altogether avoided them.

According to Vitale, the qualities of a secure cat include welcoming its owner and then returning to its previous activity.

She continued, “That’s how a secure human behaves as well.” “It is critical for owners to consider this. When they’re in a stressful circumstance, the way they act can have a direct impact on their cats’ behavior.”

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A Huge Tip Windfall for an Airport Piano Player

Sarrah M

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These days, with all the security involved, it’s not often one sees local entertainment at the airport. However, for Tonee “Valentine” Carter, playing the piano at Atlanta International Airport has been his gig for decades. As it turned out, one day, that became the best life choice he ever made.

Tonee Carter has been playing piano for years. And at age 66, there isn’t much else he’s going to do. So, travelers who make their way through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport get the unique opportunity to enjoy Carter’s piano playing daily, often stopping folks in their tracks as they arrive, depart or catch a connecting flight. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that Carter puts his soul into his music when he plays.

As it turned out, one traveler named Carlos Whittaker was also in Atlanta International on a given day, trying to make his way back home midweek after one of his events ended up being cancelled at the last second. Looking to make a connection back to Tennessee, Whittaker was not in his best mood getting circumvented through Atlanta instead of his normal flight route. However, that was also the moment that Whitaker was put in the right place at the right time to hear and enjoy Tonee Carter’s piano playing in the airport.

Whitaker not only stopped to catch his bearings, the motivational speaker was moved by the music, and he stayed to listen for almost two hours as Carter played one melody after another ,the music wafting through Concourse A, blocking out the incessant chatter of airport announcements and general buzz of travelers talking. Whitaker didn’t stop listening either; he used his smartphone to video film the musician as well as post a meeting and chat with Carter as well. That particular post then ended up going viral with Whitaker’s network and 200,000 viewers online.

As they talked, Whitaker, who normally makes a living speaking, ended up hearing an amazing personal story of Carter’s and how he ended up doing what he does with a piano. The telling moved Whitaker and a spark flashed inside the professional speaker’s head; he was going to see if his following audience would be willing to participate in giving Carter the biggest tip he ever received in his piano-playing history. The idea went off like a rocket. In a half hour, the tip amount grew to $10,000.

Carter at first thought the whole thing and Whitaker were a spoof, a candid camera joke. However, when he realized that Whitaker was serious, and the money for the pianist’s tip was real, he was floored. Carter had spent his entire life giving to others; nobody had ever picked him out from the crowd to be a recipient. Whitaker kept the drive going before leaving for his connection, and when he did reach Nashville, the donation account had doubled. Later that same day, Whitaker connected with Carter and put the pianist on a podcast, and the balance was then at $44,000. By the end of the workweek, Carter was going to be the tip recipient of well over $61,000, without any strings attached.

From a boy who was inspired by Ray Charles’ piano-playing at the age of six, Tonee Carter would find himself 60 years later being rewarded for his musicianship by complete strangers. For Whitaker, the moment galvanized his speeches on how people can do great things when they work together, even if just with small contributions rolled together in a big movement. However, for Carter, he doesn’t plan to be greedy. Instead, he expects to take his tip and pay it forward to others who need help. And he’ll still be playing piano at Atlanta International Airport, Concourse A, for as long as he can.

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