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.)
MIT has come up with a prototype for an invisible mouse. You cup and move your hand as you would with a standard mouse, but instead of a physical piece of plastic, there’s a camera and light source that track your movement. To click, just press on the table. Potentially useful for people who have difficulty with grasping.
An Ubuntu prototype will react to your face and body position in a variety of ways–automatically making text larger as you move away, for example, or expanding a video to full-screen mode if you lean back. Very promising for both vision and dexterity accommodations.
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.
Sharp is trying out a restaurant app in Japan that would let individuals browse the menu and place their order by iPad. If implemented with even a soupcon of thoughtfulness, this could address a variety of access issues, from working with VoiceOver to provide an audio menu, to allowing non-literate people to find and select a picture of what they want, to providing a non-verbal ordering strategy for people with speech impairments. Tasty!
We’ve been used to the mouse for some time; grab it and move your hand to navigate a cursor around the screen. But what if a computer could just track your hand instead? Enter Mouseless, a prototype infrared system that directly interprets hand movements for cursor control; wonderful for people whose dexterity makes grasping difficult. You still have to tap your index finger on the table to click, though, which begs the question of whether a different finger or even a different strategy could be assigned.
The Swing Pro Solo Auto concept basically does away with the steering wheel. Instead, you make the car turn simply by leaning in the direction you want to go. This has obvious benefits for upper-limb amputees and anyone who has difficulty with grasping or turning a wheel. We can also see elimination of the wheel as improving driving comfort for people who are obese or pregnant. Finally, for people with cognitive conditions such as left/right dyslexia, leaning is probably going to require less effort and allow faster reaction times than steering.