We wake up in the morning to our smartphone alarm – we pick it up and swipe to snooze or turn off the alarm – we check out the weather for the day – read any new emails or text messages…maybe even send a few replies or create new messages – and finally, turn-in to our favorite music app while we get ready for the day. We just performed a simple, routine task in under a couple of minutes…no problem, right. Just think what a monumental to impossible task that could be if you had upper limb disabilities. Our smartphones have become a staple in our lives, something we rely on for many daily functions and something we all take for granted – granted that is until you realize that there are millions our people out there that cannot enjoy that powerful form communication and response to the outside world.
Samsung Electronics, under their Samsung Software membership and Samsung Electronics Software Center, recently developed an application called DOWELL. It helps those with upper limb disabilities to control a smartphone with existing assistive computer devices, such as head mouse devices, track balls and other existing devices that eliminate the need for a “button click” controls, swiping, and pinching motions needed on a smartphone. These applications go far beyond the normal accessibility controls found on all high-end smartphones. Professor Sang-Mook Lee of Seoul National University, who helped in developing the DOWELL program, noted, “The hardest part of using smartphones for people with severe disabilities, including myself, is the touch control aspect. In fact, DOWELL all but eliminates this problem, opening up many possibilities for the future.”
The professor went on to explain that the ability to use a smartphone will also open up other doors as technology gets to the point where we will be able to control our entire house – locks, alarms, washer/dryer, kitchen appliances, and so on – that power will also be available to those with disabilities. He says, “When people with disabilities gain access to smartphones, they can not only communicate, search, and do many other things, but can also control all home appliances, thanks to the generational shift of IoT technology, which is greatly changing the lives of many people with disabilities.”
Samsung is planning to release the software later this year – you simply download the app, hook your smartphone to a USB-type computer assisted device and then the user can utilize the upper and lower portions of the smartphone screen. In the upper screen, users can opt to tap, drag and use other touch commands, while on the lower part of the screen the user can access the menu, home screen, back function and other keys on a Galaxy smartphone. The DOWELL app will work on all Samsung Galaxy S3’s to the most recent Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. Check out the video below for a peek into the future.