In just a few months, individuals who cannot use their limbs due to conditions like ALS, paralysis, Parkinsons, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries will be able to – some for the first time in many years – make phone calls, surf the internet, read and send email, even play games, all on their cellphones.
The Sesame Phone, a product of Israeli computer vision and gesture technology research, will enable those suffering from near-paralysis to interact with their smartphones like anyone else, said the Sesame Phone’s inventor, Oded Ben-Dov.
“We’ve developed a completely software-driven system that could be used with any Android phone,” Ben-Dov told The Times of Israel. “It’s not a software patch, but a complete reengineering of the Android OS to allow users to control devices using just voice and head gestures.”
The system basically takes control of all of the device’s sensors and interaction components (cameras, accelerometer, GPS chip, etc.) and puts them all at the service of the revised OS, allowing full use of the device using just voice commands or head gestures.
While the system is suitable for any device running the Android operating system (an iOS version is still under development), as a practical matter – because people prefer a complete solution instead of an platform they have to install – Ben-Dov and his team will install the systems on Google Nexus 5 devices and sell them as a full package.
The device’s voice commands are used to open up applications, make calls, etc. For apps that usually require touch for interaction, the system uses head gestures, with users moving their head in various directions (up and down or left and right for navigation, a slight nod forward for selection, etc.),
“Our slogan is ‘touch is overrated,’ and with our device, touch is not even necessary,” said Ben-Dov. “For those who don’t have use of their limbs, this is so far the only solution that lets them use a standard smartphone, with all that means today.”
The fact that the Open Sesame solution is software-based is key to its abilities, said Ben-Dov. While there are other enabling technologies that allow the severely disabled to use smartphones, they are either hardware-based and cost many thousands of dollars, or limited in scope, able to control only one or two apps. By hacking the smartphone’s operating system, Ben-Dov can provide touch and gesture services throughout the device – for a lot less money that other solutions.
“For the phone, technology, training, and stand for the device (it will need to be mounted on a pole opposite the user’s head), we expect to charge about $1,000,” said Ben-Dov.
Read more: The Times of Israel