Friday, March 27, 2015
Thursday, March 19, 2015
You'll see a lot more instances of robotic arms in the news, but it doesn't mean high-tech prostheses for the lower limbs don't exist. The Cyberlegs project, for instance, is developing robotic legs that can help amputees move and walk more naturally. Each system is comprised of smart shoes equipped with pressure sensors and inertial measurement units, the limb itself, as well as a component and algorithm that can decode how the user intends to move. It can, for instance, tell if the user wants to start walking, to get up or to sit down -- based on the amputee's habits -- providing the proper support for each action. Users that need even more help can also be fitted with an accompanying pelvic brace that can assist them in moving their hips.
Cyberlegs is a joint project by a number of European institutions: the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna di Pisa, Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi Onlus in Florence, as well the Catholic University of Louvain and the Free University of Brussels in Belgium. Researchers from these schools have been working on the project since 2012 using $2.7 million in funds from the European Commission, but the Italian scientists have only just presented their work to the public this Monday.
Thus far, the system has already been tested by 11 people. But when the team got together recently to assess their work, they've determined that they still need to reduce the prosthetic's weight and size for comfort. The team is hoping to get additional funds from industrial partners to make that happen and to bring Cyberlegs to market in two to three years' time.
In German-speaking countries, deaf-blind people use a "tactile alphabet" called Lorm to communicate with one another, which involves a series of motions on the hand.
The problem with Lorm, though, is that few people understand it. This means that people who are both deaf and blind are often limited to communicating with others who understand Lorm.
But a new technology aims to help them communicate more easily with people who don't understand Lorm. Researchers in Berlin are developing the Mobile Lorm Glove, with which deaf-blind people can transmit Lorm to text on a computer or mobile device.
A deaf-blind person can run her fingers across sensors on the glove's palm, just as she would on a normal hand. The sensors pick up on the Lorm and then translate those tactile motions into text. The communication is then sent as a text message to the receiver's smartphone, for example. The transmission occurs via Bluetooth.
It wIt works just like a normal text message, but there are small vibrating motors on the back of the glove. The text is then translated in Lorm and communicated via vibrations.
The Mobile Lorm Glove could allow deaf-blind people to make more connections and communicate with more than one person at a time.
The glove is still a prototype but has already had practical applications in the real world.
“I can send and receive — it’s easy,” Edi Haug, a deaf-blind man, told the BBC through the glove's translations.
Friday, March 13, 2015
According to a 9to5Mac article detailing the leaked Apple Watch companion app, Apple Watch is rumored to include a certain level of VoiceOver support, as well as a number of other accessibility features:
- Like Apple’s other products, Apple Watch will have a series of key accessibility features.
- The Apple Watch will have a VoiceOver feature that can speak text that is displayed on the screen. Users will be able to scroll through text to be spoken using two fingers. VoiceOver can be enabled either by merely raising a wrist or by double tapping the display.
- Users will also be able to zoom on the Apple Watch’s screen: double tap with two fingers to zoom, use two fingers to pan around, and double tap while dragging to adjust the zoom.
- There will also be accessibility settings to reduce motion, control stereo audio balance, reduce transparency, switch to grayscale mode, disable system animations, and enable bold text.
While 9to5Mac’s information is most definitely leaked and thus should be taken as unofficial at best, 9to5Mac published a more recent article in which Tim Cook is said to have indicated that the Apple Watch would contain accessibility features:
Yes is the short answer. In every product we do, we want it to be accessible for everyone. This is not something that we sit around and figure out what the ROI is. I can give a rats what the ROI is. It’s one of those things that goes in the just and right column. So we want all of our products to be accessible.
Here again, one should regard this statement with some level of skepticism -especially since it was allegedly made at a private meeting at the Berlin Apple Store during a recent visit by Cook.
Further corroborating the assertion that Apple Watch will include at least some level of accessibility support, iMore’s Steven Aquino noted that there is an accessibility framework built into Apple’s publicly-available WatchKit SDK:
I spent some time looking through the Apple Watch SDK, but I hadn't found any references to Accessibility. After asking around on Twitter, I wasalerted to a WKInterfaceObject string of code that allows for Accessibility and localized text. I'm no computer programmer so I'm unable to fully understand what that means, but my low-level take is that, yes, Apple has baked in some Accessibility features into the Watch's operating system. What those features actually are remain to be seen, but it's comforting nonetheless to know that the Watch will be accessible, more or less.
While we had initially hoped that the iOS 8.2 Apple Watch companion app would provide some details as to what accessibility features the device will have, our testing has found that many of the settings (including where one would presumably find accessibility features) are not available without an Apple Watch being paired to the phone. We did note, however, that in the screen to pair the watch with an iPhone, the accessibility hint for the viewfinder image in the pairing screen directs VoiceOver users to "double tap the 'Pair Apple Watch Manually' button for an accessible alternative" to pairing the watch using the iPhone camera's viewfinder.
At this point, this is all we know about possible accessibility features of Apple Watch. As more information emerges in the coming weeks, we will update this post accordingly.