A dock for the Apple iPad will allow users to sweep and swipe in mid-air, as far away as a foot from the iPad. No word yet on what gestures will be included, but they will let you control regular apps. We may also see special apps written for the dock; maybe someone will be smart/kind enough to write apps for people with dexterity limitations, cognitive disabilities, etc. — this is a perfect gadget for adding even more accessibility to the already-stellar iPad. Not having to hold the iPad will make it easier for dexterity impaired users, and with a camera-equipped iPad, it may facilitate sign language video. (Not that the combo would recognize ASL — having the iPad in a dock, controllable from a certain distance would make it easier for someone standing back and signing.)
Nonobject is an offbeat design studio in Palo Alto that’s proposing three new cell phone designs, all of which have accessibility implications. The Rawphisticated, which looks like a crumpled business card, could be refined so that the crumples provide tactile distinctions between keys for blind folks. The Tarati has recessed keys, providing an effect similar to keyguards that have been used for years by people with hand tremor or some other types of dexterity disabilities. And the CuN5 reminds us of T.V. Raman’s touchpad design, which would define the 5 key as anywhere a blind user touches the screen.
WordLens is a new iPhone app that can be used to recognize text within graphics and translate it (just Spanish->English and English->Spanish for now). Because this uses optical character recognition, we wonder if the technology could also be used to address the inaccessibility of bitmapped text on Web pages by capturing text and relaying it to a speech output program instead of a translator.
An art project recently displayed in Saint-Etienne, France, has an interesting interface: it uses a bedside table with a scanner built into its drawer. Place a photo (or a handwritten note?) into the drawer, and the image is automatically scanned and sent to Twitter. Could be a low-effort social networking strategy for people with limited movement.
We’ve previously covered persistent alarm clocks, but never appreciated the need to address a complimentary problem: people who wake up early and don’t realize that others in their household still need to sleep. Now there’s the Stoplight Alarm Clock, which flashes red at “appropriate” sleeping times and green at customary wake-up times. Could be useful for some folks with autism or other cognitive disabilities.
The Huey lamp senses the color of whatever it’s sitting on and changes to match that color. What we’d love to see as a related product is a lamp with the same type of sensors, but that responds by changing to a light color that would maximize contrast for elders and people with low vision.
Texting is a perfect example of what AoMS is about–a mainstream technology that is seamlessly relevant to one or more groups of people with disabilities, in this case people with hearing or speech disabilities. However, when texting could be most valuable–in emergency situations–it’s been unsupported by 911 call centers. The FCC is aiming to change that by upgrading the system to accept not only text but also digital images, which could be critical for people with communication skills impaired either by disability or the urgency of the situation.