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Glove allows deafblind people to text with their thumbs

Device will lend a helping hand when using the phone

Wednesday 25 July
Glove allows deafblind people to text with their thumbs

Ed Gould - July 25 at 00:30

A German team of researchers is developing a device that is designed to allow deafblind people to access mobile telecommunications, in a handy way.

The Design Research Lab, which is part of the Berlin University of the Arts, has constructed a glove that communicates in a method that is based upon the Lorm alphabet.

Developed in the 19th century by inventor Hieronymus Lorm, the tactile hand touch alphabet, in which every character is assigned to a certain area of the hand, has been advanced by the team into a mobile application. Lorm requires physical touching and for both parties to be familiar with the language.

“Based on these aspects, our aim was to provide a solution to possibly overcome these challenges,” said researcher Tom Bieling at the Design Research Lab. “The Mobile Lorm Glove supports communication over distance, provides access to autonomous information and serves as an interpreter for people not familiar with Lorm.”

The project was developed out of a wider programme that dealt with perspectives of interactive design, including ground breaking human-computer interactions, like touch based feedback from digital information.

According to Bieling, the research was developed in conjunction with two deafblind institutions, where the team obtained first hand knowledge into the needs of deafblind people. “We gained direct insights into their requirements and barriers for interaction and that’s how we came up with the glove,” he explained.

The device works by using textile pressure sensors located on the palm of the glove to enable the user to write Lorm onto their own hand to compose text messages.

A Bluetooth connection then transmits the data from the glove to the user’s handheld device. If the user receives a text, the system works in reverse with small vibration motors located on the back of the glove, providing tactile feedback patterns to allow the wearer to perceive incoming messages.

According to the Design Research Lab, this tactile, or haptic, interface enables parallel one-to-many communications, which could be especially helpful in educational contexts.

“We have received an overall positive feedback from our deafblind partners,” said Bieling. “It is hard to really put oneself into the position of a deafblind person, therefore it is particularly important to develop such devices in a participatory design process.”

Bieling said that they got very helpful suggestions from users regarding different elements of the device. “Their feedback about the calibration of the actuators and sensors were remarkably detailed,” he said.

The researchers are keen to develop the glove for new applications, like allowing deafblind people to read e-books, access instant messaging systems or for use outside the deafblind world. “We are currently investigating in different areas of operation, where haptic interaction could be embedded into wearable technologies,” said Bieling.

However, the project’s next step will be to develop the implementation of direct speech input and output for the glove for everyday use. As a result, they hope that the device will empower deafblind people to engage with a wider social world and further enhance their independence.

Frances Dobson, Saturday 29 December

This has been done before. Remember the Glasgow glove?

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