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.
And the iPad jumps into the world of brainwaved-powered operation. Currently used for osculatory goals, but other applications could be developed, either to allow people with little or no dexterity to run apps or to serve as a biofeedback trainer.
Bödysöf is a new shower gadget that removes the need for squeezing bottles of bath gel. Instead, it lets you pull a lever to dispense gel into the stream of your shower. Looks pretty friendly for people with arthritis and other dexterity impairments. Available in chrome for $140 or plastic for $80; umlauts sold separately.
NTT DoCoMo has come up with prototype earphones that can detect eye movements — without a camera — and send commands to phones, media players, etc. Your eye-rolling teen may just be doing homework. If this gets commercialized, people with extremely impaired dexterity may have a new, low-cost option for computer input, environmental control, and more.
Sure, the new Microsoft Arc mouse bends up like a caterpillar for a more ergonomic design–or not. What interests us more is the touch strip that replaces a standard scroll button. Easier on the index (or whichever) finger? Hoping so.
Some folks at the Ithaca College Tots on Bots project have the AoMS philosophy down pat: They’ve taken Wii Balance Boards and builds them into tiny robotic wheelchairs. When a very young child with physical disabilities sits in the chair and leans, the board senses their movement and steers the chair in the corresponding direction. Will this be expanded into wheelchair design for other ages, so that we’ll have Teens that Lean and Geezers on Wiizers?