Fingerprint biometrics have been used for security for some time, but finally they’re being applied to something really important–coffee making. The Xelsis Digital ID saves preference information for up to six people, and brews your cup your way at the swipe of a finger. Could have implications for making other appliances easier to use, assuming you have both fingerprints and lots of (Star)bucks–the Xelsis will set you back $2,500.
Most of us have wallets or keychains bursting with loyalty and membership cards for various stores, and it doesn’t even take having a disability to experience difficulty finding and retrieving them when needed. Enter the Numi Key, which stores all your card information electronically, then lets you retrieve as needed and wirelessly transmit to a POS device. The display looks pretty legible (can we beg for a voice-output option in a future release?), and the buttons could well be tactilely discernable.
Holiday Inn will soon be installing special room locks that open when you play a coded song for them from your smartphone. Both the unlock tones and your room assignment will be sent to your phone automatically, so you can skip the front desk. The OpenWays system may help customers who have dexterity or visual difficulty using keycards, but it also makes the accessibility of smartphones that much more essential — as these mobile devices become ever more integral, being left out really means being left out.
Eyegaze technology has long been a specialized input option for individuals with near-total paralysis, but it’s been expensive, cumbersome, and not always reliable. Now researchers at Dartmouth have come up with a promising mainstream–mainstream!!–eyegaze technology for the Nokia tablet. We’re opticmistic that this can be applied to other devices as well.
Japanese drivers with left/right dyslexia have a new friend in NaviRobo, a small crab robot that syncs with the Pioneer GPS system and points its claws in the direction you’re supposed to go–a rather elegant non-verbal navigation strategy. The same idea modified into a handheld version could help deaf-blind pedestrians, too.
Toshiba is exploring artificial texture for touch screens. By changing the charge on a surface film, the device will present the user with simulated rough, smooth, or fuzzy textures. This could work well for blind users, who would be able to distinguish buttons and controls on a touchscreen, one of the major barriers to those ubiquitous input systems.
Apple has patented a technique to hide sensors beneath the skin of a product. They will be completely invisible and undiscernible any other way as well (in direct contravention of 1194.23(k)(1) of Section 508, which is now under review). But embedded LEDs may announce their presence via patterns of micro-holes drilled by frickin’ lasers.
We love seamless input devices, we really do. We’re sleek as seals ourselves. But unless there is some redundant alternative or accessibility technique, blind and low vision users are going to be excluded.