Assistive Tech & Products

Awesome communication apps and assistive technology from CES

New regular Disability Horizons writer and self-confessed tech geek Tom Housden, who has Cerebral Palsy, will be rounding up the latest communication apps and assistive technology. This month he looks at five of the latest and coolest gadgets for disabled people shown at this year’s CES, the Consumer Electronics Show.

If you’re an IT geek, like me, you’re likely to have heard of CES – one of the biggest technology events put on every year in Las Vegas. If you can get there, it’s a great way to see the latest technology just released from a wide range of manufacturers. It also gives you a nice escape from the UK winter!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend this year, but I was still able to scope out the latest communication apps and assistive technology using the wealth of information about CES on the internet. I haven’t had the chance to try out any of these apps or gadgets (in most cases because they’re simply not out yet) but I believe they will be invaluable for disabled people.

Aipoly Vision app – for visually impaired or blind people

Aipoly Vision is a recognition app that helps the blind, visually impaired and colour blind people understand their surroundings. Simply point your phone at the object of interest, push the recognition button at the bottom of the screen, and it will recognise the item and explain what it is to you. As an example, it can:

  • read text;
  • recognise a wide range of objects;
  • recognise plants and animals;
  • recognise food, currency and colours;
  • recognise faces for people you’ve preset in the device.

It can recognise 1,000 items for free, and many more if you take out a subscription, which costs $4.99 – about £4.20 – per month.

Also, it doesn’t rely on an internet connection, so you don’t need to have wifi or data to use it. There are also multiple language options and even an intelligent torch that comes on automatically when darkness is detected! Take a look at it in action in this video.

Aipoly Vision works on: iPhone 5S, iPad Air, iPad Mini 2 and all later models of these devises. Visit Apple iTunes to download it.

It’s said to be available on Android from 15th April 2017, and doesn’t appear to be available on Windows phone.

Find out more about Aiploy Vision by visiting the website.

Gaspard app – for wheelchair users

If you’re new to using a wheelchair, the Gaspard app and sensor pad could be for you. Designed to help you sit in a comfortable and safe position, it’s essentially a thin pad that sits under the wheelchair’s cushion and detects the your position using set of pressure sensors.

It then tells you whether your posture is correct, or whether you’re leaning to one side, which could indicate or lead to severe pain. It can also track your weight over time, and you can set weight goals you want to reach.

Read more about the Gaspard app on the Gaspard website. Just be aware, the Gaspard site and app download site are in French, so you’ll have to translate (unless you speak French!).

Leka robot – for children with autism or developmental disabilities

Leka is a tiny robot that helps children with autism and other developmental disabilities learn and communicate with others better. Leka lights up with colourful LED lights, plays music, and vibrates as it’s played with. But it’s main function though is to play educational games.

It’s also fully customisable and connects to an app that allows you to interact with Leka. It’s been aimed at schools that focus on autistic children and those with similar conditions, but I can be bought by parents too. Take a look at the video to see it in action.

Leka is priced between $700 and $800 (£565 to £646) and is due to be released in November 2017. More information about it can be found on the Leka website.

Oticon ON app – for people who are hard of hearing

Working with Oticon OPN hearing aids, this app allows you to control your hearing aids from your mobile phone or tablet. It also enables you to control and interact with other internet-connected devices and services. For example, it will:

  • allow you to turn lights or a smart thermostat on and off with the hearing aids;
  • tell you when the laundry is finished;
  • inform you when somebody is at the door;
  • stream your TVs audio directly to your hearing aids, and allow you to adjust the volume discreetly with a tiny remote control.

The app also offers a ‘Find Your Hearing Aid’ feature, to help you locate them if you’re not sure where you’ve put them.

Oticon ON works on: iOS 9.3 or later, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and can be found on the Apple iTunes store.  It is also available for Android.

As far as I can tell, it’s not available for a Windows phone.

For more information on Opticon OPN hearing aids and the Opticon ON app, visit the Opticon website.

Blitab – for blind and visually impaired people

Another gadget for blind and visually impaired people, but this time a tablet, not an app. It’s the first tactile tablet with a textured surface to help with reading and writing Braille.

It’s essentially like an e-book, which, instead of a screen, uses small physical bubbles to represent letters and words. Take a look at this video to see what I mean.

It can deliver real-time information to people in Braile form from around the web, but can also be used to read files, such as those from Word or PDF.

It is expected to be available in the summer (2017) and costs $500 (roughly £402). You can find out more about it and when it will be available on the Blitab website.

See you next month!

By Tom Housden

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