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.
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.
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.
The Conversacube is a small box that “listens” to ambient conversations and provides the user with cues about chiming in. Theoretically created for the shy, but could easily be helpful for people with disabilities such as autism, and possibly as a supplement to lipreading for some Deaf folks as well. That is, as long as they’re not too put off by the ugly green color.
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.
We hear a lot of complaints from clients about their clogged Email inboxes–especially from folks with cognitive disabilities, who may be unsure what’s reasonably safe or not to open, who may have unreliable spam filters, or who may simply be overwhelmed. Enter the Priority Inbox feature for GMail, which prioritizes your inbox based on “who emails you the most, who you reply to the most, keywords taken from the emails you open most often, and how a message is addressed.” Users can also “train” the feature by indicating when Priority Inbox made a miscall. Not a full solution, but a likely helper.