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How will Google Glass help Disabled People?

Google Glass Logo

Google Glass Logo

Google Glass is a game changing technology that we will look back to and wonder how we did without it, like we do with mobile phones and WiFi!

New developments design for mainstream usage are in fact becoming more inclusive and giving more options for people living with disabilities. Google Glass is one such piece of equipment.

What is Google Glass?

Google Glass is a wearable computer which comes with an optical head-mounted display which is working towards the full development of a ubiquitous computer. Google Glass is being developed as part of the larger Project Glass research and development project. It takes smartphone technology and makes it even more accessible. It displays information just like a smartphone in a hands free format which allows for communication with the internet through natural voice commands.

Google Glass

The Google Glass

Google Glass is fitted with a touchpad on its side and it allows users to control it by swiping thorough its interface on the screen. The interface is much like the standard timeline we’ve come to be familiar with and this swiping motion is the only physical action needed to operate the Glass.

Voice actions are the main way of controlling the device and activating the Glass is as simple as tilting the head upwards (to approximately 30° or a preferred angle that can be altered) or tap the touchpad and say ‘OK Glass.’ Once the Glass is activated only voice actions are required and you can access the range of different facilities offered by the product. Everything from ‘Send a message to Mum’ to ‘get directions to the nearest ATM’ can be found. Search results will be filtered and then read back to the user so they can choose the most fitting one.

Google use innovative bond conduction through a transducer in the product which renders the sound virtually inaudible to others around you, allowing for a private yet interactive computing experience.

The Google Glass headset can be simply connected to your smartphone and the display is a small information screen which hovers in front of one eye. Experts in the field are describing this as the first development in what will be the next big trend – wearable technology. Rather than slipping your smartphone into your pocket you could find you’re utilising glasses, watches and other wearable devices in the near future. Prospective analytics suggest that wearable tech has the potential to be big business with sales projections for the Glass reaching 9.6 million by the end of 2016.

Google Glass for Disability

For disabled people living Google Glass presents an even bigger opportunity. An opportunity to make their environment more accessible through information.  The Glass is much more than a new toy, it can be life affirming or even life changing. Technologists suggest that speech recognition is reaching new levels of precision. They’re actually working towards profoundly deaf people being able to see real-time transcripts of what friends are saying to them in the Glass’ prism. It really could revolutionise communication for many.

Equally the Glass could also be extremely useful for people with visual impairments – with suggestions that it may be possible to take walking directions from the Glass further opening up the world for them.

Below we’re looking at two of the early Google Glass adopters, both of whom are disabled and have had their stories well publicised. How the Glass has helped their lives is truly inspirational and is a positive example of how they can be instrumental for other people living with disabilities in the future.

Tammie Lou Van Sant

Tammie Lou Van Sant -Google Glass User

Tammie Lou Van Sant -Google Glass User

Tammie Lou Van Sant was a keen photographer before a car accident left her living with permanent paralysis. The Google Glass headset has given Van Sant the chance to point and shoot again as she can simply give voice commands. It has allowed her to once again enjoy one of her favourite past times as well as its other functionalities being highly useful such as answering her own phone calls, replying to texts and making small, solo trips out thanks to Google Maps.

Alex Blaszczuk

Alex Blaszczuk is another individual living with permanent paralysis. She submitted her story to the #ifihadaglass competition and was awarded her glass this way. She highlighted how the glass would help her to ‘thrive with physical limitations’. On receiving her Glass she was able to find a new form of self-expression and the video below shows exactly how much of a positive impact it has had upon her life.

Getting Google Glass

Google Glass doesn’t have an official launch date although recent queries to Google on  November 8th suggest it may be out by early 2014. There are no official announcements now so rather than thinking about when you’ll get your own it may be worth beginning to save up!

Google Glass has the potential to revolutionise the lives of millions of disabled people. Some may be able to recapture hobbies and interests that they remember before the effects of an accidents whilst others may enjoy completely new experiences, that they have never had the opportunity to participate in.

Google Glass for Disability Updates

We intend to update this post with people’s personal experiences and applications of the Glass as they develop. Please leave a comment if you have something for us to add.

Liverpool Mi Smarthouse

Liverpool Mi Smarthouse

Mi Smarthouse Kitchen Area

Mi Smarthouse Kitchen Area

At the Museum of Liverpool there’s a small, unassuming exhibition which looks like the recreation of a normal house. When you get inside you realise it has been setup with every possible gadget and gizmo to support independence. The Mi Smarthouse is a project put together by More Independent (Mi).

More Independent is a Government-funded initiative that is being piloted across four UK regions. As there website says the scheme exists to:

  • enable you to take charge of your health, wellbeing and lifestyle
  • use technology to allow you to feel safer and live more independently in your own home
  • give peace of mind to yourself and your family
  • reduce the amount of time you have to spend on appointments, by supporting you to manage better at home

The Mi Smarthouse at the museum is kitted out with a wide range of equipment covering all the key areas of the home. Here we’re taking a look at some of the gadgets they’ve highlighted and used in their perfect, accessible home.

General

These gadgets could be useful at any place in your home and can make it feel more safe and secure.

Fall Detector

Fall Detector

Fall Detector

A fall detector can be worn around your neck and it connected to a system which will alert your carer if you do fall even if they’re not on the premises.

Large Buttons Picture Telephone

Phone keypads can be hard to use and it can also be difficult to remember phone numbers. This phone has spaces for photographs of those people you call regularly as well as large, clear numbers for when you need to dial out.

Home Safety Alert

The Mi Smarthouse has a bonus caller panic button installed by the front door, giving the residents the chance to press the button if anyone arrives at the door who they’re not comfortable with. Similar home safety alarm system can be found elsewhere too.

Supra KeySafe

Supra KeySafe

Supra KeySafe

The Supra KeySafe is the UK’s first police approved key safe and is the perfect place to store your emergency keys. You choose a combination number and you can share this number only with somebody you trust implicitly.

Carbon Monoxide Sensor

Carbon monoxide can kill. It’s odourless and can’t be seen so the only way to sense it before it is too late is with a dedicated carbon monoxide sensor. Sensors can be easily installed and can save your life.

Fingerprint Lock

A fingerprint lock is a great option if you struggle with keys. You can add the details of your carer and friends as authorised ‘pad-pressers’ so they can get in and out with ease when necessary too.

Kitchen

We’ve talked regularly about the importance of gadgets to make access to the kitchen easier. It’s potentially a dangerous environment so anything to make it less so is a good invention in our book. In the Mi Smarthouse they demonstrated a range of kitchen-specific gadgets.

Talking Microwave

The controls on a microwave oven can be difficult if you have difficulties with your vision or dexterity. A Talking Microwave Oven can help guide you to the buttons you need and it will also tell you when the door is open or closed and let you know whether the food needs stirring or left to stand.

Induction Hob

An induction hob only cooks the pot upon it. There is next to no danger of being burned by it and they’re becoming a common installation in supported living environments to aid independence. This type of hob is also energy efficient and reaches top temperatures in record time. In the Mi House the hob was fitted but they can also be bought as separate electric units .

One cup Kettle

one-cup_kettleWe’ve talked before about how useful the one cup kettle can be. Never worry about spilling boiling water as the kettle will dispense the exact amount you need with the simple pressing of a button.

Entertainment and Living Area

Many of these items listed below could be used all around the house but are most useful when you’re relaxing in front of the TV or lounging on the sofa.

Big Switch and Remote

Big Switch Remote

Big Switch Remote

A Remote Control Big Switch can be positioned wherever you need it to avoid bending to switch off items which have plug sockets uncomfortably out of reach. The big switch can be used with any electrical appliance in the home.

Voice Recorder Switches

If speech has always been or is becoming difficult then these small voice recorder switches can be used to record key phrases. They can have messages such as ‘I’m hungry’ or ‘I want to go home’ ready recorded for when you’re home or out and about when speech has become difficult.

Chair Occupancy Alert

This item is extremely useful if you have an outside care team supporting you as it allows them to monitor the time spent out of your chair. If it seems exceptionally long they may phone you or come around the check everything is OK.

Big Jack Controller

Big Jack Multi-Controller

Big Jack Multi-Controller

The Big Jack can replace all your smaller, fiddly remotes and switches. It can be programmes for a whole range of jobs and can be used to change channels on the TV, switch off lights and even use the telephone.

Personal Care

The personal care element of the home is the most private. Both the bedroom and bathroom are places where you want to maintain as much independence as possible and some of these gadgets are designed to guarantee this as well as ensure you can get the help you need, when you need it.

Epilepsy Sensor

Epilepsy Sensor

Epilepsy Sensor

Living with any form of epilepsy or convulsions can be extremely frightening – especially if you’re alone when one occurs. This epilepsy sensor will alert an outdoor care team if a seizure is taking place, allowing them to provide the right support ASAP.

Enuresis Sensor

Enuresis Sensor

Enuresis Sensor

Designed to fit comfortable under the top sheet, an enuresis sensor will alert your carer to the fight signs of dampness whilst in bed – ensuring you’re not left uncomfortable for a long period of time. We have looked at these aids previously for helping children but they can be equally useful later in life.

Flood Detector

A flood detector will guarantee you never forget about another bath. It’s very easy to forget the bath is running but with the installation of a simple detector, it will be safe and you can avoid the risks of damage to your home and the even higher risk of slipping.

The Mi Smarthouse in Liverpool is one of the first examples of how all this technology can come together and successfully be used to help people remain in their own homes independently. You can take a virtual tour of the Smarthouse here. We recently visited the £D printing exhibition at the London Science Museum and will cover the potential benefits in a future post.

Helpful Aids for Hearing Loss

This blog is in two parts – the first part is a guest post by trained audiologist Melanie Lewis, the second part is some suggestions of our own:

Who does hearing loss affect?

Hearing impairment affects over 9 million individuals in the UK (source: RNID 2005 survey). The two most common reasons contributing to diminished hearing are age related (though slightly misleading as affects start in a person’s 40’s) and noise induced. In both cases, the level of hearing will not improve naturally and individuals depend on a growing number of sophisticated devices designed to overcome the hearing impairment using modern technology.

 

Hearing Loss Tech Gadget Ideas

 

What Goes Wrong Leading To Hearing Loss:

There are a number of organs and processes that must work to their potential in order for us to hear, see or smell. In the case of hearing, sound needs to be captured, then funneled to the brain where it is made into ‘tangible’ information that we can comprehend. Our inner ear includes tiny hair cells that are only visible under a microscope. These cells capture waves in the air (which we call ‘sound’) that are funneled via the hearing nerve to the brain. As the body matures, the quality and quantity of the hair cells is reduced leading to a challenging inability to hear certain sound frequencies. The hair cells can also become damaged (often more easily than people might believe) through exposure to harmful noise leading to noise induced hearing loss. The body is unable to repair or regrow the tiny hair cells so any management of hearing disability must depend on technological advances in science.

Digital Hearing Aids:

Image of the HD450 digital hearing aid

Today’s digital hearing aids are lighter, small and slimmer than ever before.

These digital amplification aids are available at no cost from the NHS and from private service providers offering digital hearing aids. Leading brands include Oticon, Phonak, Resound, Siemens, Starkey and Widex. The device is housed in a small lightweight plastic structure and sits inside or outside the wearer’s ear. It works by capturing waves in the air using a sensitive microphone that are then amplified using a powerful microchip. The amplified sound is transmitted directly into the ear using the receiver.

Differentiating factors between the various brands of digital hearing aids include size (with ‘discreet’ sizes normally commanding higher prices), wireless connection, Bluetooth connectivity and complexity of sound processing algorithms. While NHS hearing aids are free, model choice is limited and a waiting list may apply.

Amplified Phones:

Image of the Amplicon Big Tel 280 amplified telephone

Amplified cordless phones offer high quality, loud, distortion-free sound. They also offer a hands-free mode.

These are desk, cordless and mobile phones that have been specifically tailored for the hard of hearing. Leading brands include Doro, Geemarc and Amplicomms. The devices differ from normal phones in that they can amplify the ringer level often 10 times louder than that of a normal phone and amplify the voice of the caller to a suitable level. Differentiating factors between the various phones include caller voice amplification level, ringer volume in dB (can reach 60dB vs. 4 to 6dB on normal phones), telecoil compatibly to digital hearing aids, visual indicators and type of buttons (backlit, big button etc). Amplified phones are not usually available from the NHS, but can be bought at a reasonable price.

 

 

 

 

Alerting Devices:

Amplified doorbell

An amplified doorbell can help you hear when someone is at the door. Click the image for more information.

These aids are designed to attract the user’s attention to something that may have become inaudible and include amplified alarm clocks and amplified doorbells. They differ from normal alerting aids in their level of amplification that can reach 95dB and most importantly in the suite of other sensory triggers they offer. Devices will include visual indicators and often vibration pads that can be placed for example below the user’s pillow. Certainly in the case of most amplified doorbells, they are wireless so can be carried from room to room when the user moves around the home. Leading brands include Sonic Alert, Geemarc and Amplicomms and again, these are not usually available from the NHS.

In the case of profound hearing impairment and when ALDs (assistive listening devices featured above) are less effective, individuals will often supplement the management of their hearing loss with lip reading and British Sign Language.

If you or someone you know is concerned about their hearing ability, a visit to a local hearing centre is recommended. We hope you found this information of help.

Melanie Lewis is a trained hearing aid audiologist. She works for hearing direct, the UK’s biggest supplier deaf accessories from hearing aid batteries to personal amplification aids.

Other Hearing Aid Technology and Gadgetry

We’ve had a look around the market to find some other handy and innovative gadgets that may help if you suffer from hearing loss.

Our first interesting find was brought to our attention by a fellow Twitter user:

Apparently all digital wireless phones must now be hearing-aid compatible (HAC) and the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 feature built-in HAC making them easy to connect hearing aids to. The iPhone 5 has a HAC rating of M3, T4. The numbers next to each letter represent the compatibility ratings on a scale of 1 to 4.

The M rating is based on reduced radio-frequency interference that enables acoustic coupling with hearing aids that do not operate in telecoil mode.

The T rating is for inductive coupling with hearing aids operating in telecoil mode.

Vibrating Reminder Watches

Image of the Pivotell Vibrating reminder watch in a lilac purple flower design

Pivotell Vibrate Mini Reminder Watch in Purple Floral

There are quite a few vibrating reminder watches available on the market, in almost every colour and style you can think of. These watches are ideal for keeping track of daily tasks such as medication intervals, gym work outs or even for use when home cooking. This Pivotell Reminder Watch emits a discreet vibration that will alert the user but will not disturb those around them. You set set up to 12 different alarms and the vibration lasts for 5 seconds each time.

 

 

 

Vibrating and Light-Up Alarm Clocks

This funky looking alarm clock would be great for teenagers or young people. The stylish black finish and bright LED

Image of the Wake 'n' Shake digital alarm clock in black, with a large, easy-to-read red LED display

The Wake ‘n’ Shake alarm includes a vibration pad and can also be connect to your phone line.

screen would look great in a kid’s bedroom or in a student den! What makes the Wake ‘n’ Shake extraordinary is the vibrating pad that is attached to the clock.

By placing the pad under your pillow or next to you, the pad will vibrate when it’s time to get up – or for any other reason you decide to set the alarm. Not only this, but the Wake ‘n’ Shake can be connected directly to your home phone line, meaning you can be notified when somebody is ringing you.

Other useful features of the Wake ‘n’ Shake include a large, easy to read LED display, and the ability to also set the clock to alert you with a strobe light or an extra-loud 95dB alarm sound.

 

Image of the Lifemax under pillow vibrating alarm clock

This handy-sized vibrating alarm can be taken with you for travel or used at home.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a little more subtle than the Wake ‘n’ Shake, we’ve also found the  Lifemax 331 Under Pillow Vibration Alarm Clock. This handy devise is ideal for travel or at home, and simply slips under your pillow. The vibration is strong enough to wake you, but also perfect if you need to wake without waking anybody else in the house. The compact, lightweight design means you can take it anywhere with you, and as it runs on batteries there’s no need to find a power source.

 

 

Image of the Amplicomms wireless amplified headphone headset

These trendy headphones can provide sound up to 120dB.

Wireless Amplified Headphones

For those who love their music or want to amplify their TV or radio, these futuristic-looking headphones are the ideal solution. The Amplicomms TV150 Amplified Headset can wirelessly transmit stereo sound from almost any device you have around the home. Whether it be TV, DVD or MP3, this ergonomically designed headset fits snuggly in the ears and can transmit sound up to a massive 120dB. The powerful transmitter allows a range of up to 10 meters allowing you to freely move around the home, and they also include a built-in automatic volume control, which stops increases in noise such as TV adverts, from being too loud.

 

You may also enjoy a post on our other blog “Communication aids for deaf people”

If you have a favourite gadget or even something a little unusual that helps you, please let us know in the comments below.