Researchers develop App to help users with arm paralysis operate smartphones

Researchers develop Dowell Android App for people with arm paralysis to run smartphones using assistive devices such as head-tracking sensors

It is known that people with paralysis in their arm cant operate smartphones or have difficulty in operating them. To solve this problem, South Korean researchers have developed an app called Dowell.

Dowell is designed to assist people who can’t use their hands well, and is targeted at users with muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), stroke and other ailments that restrict movement.

The App takes help of variety of input methods called comptuer assistive devices like trackball mouce, head-tracking camera and mouth stick to help a user with paralysis operate a smartphone. The mouth stick is a tool for manipulating a cursor with the mouth and using it to give commands to a smartphone.

The researchers will present their research at the at the 2015 Computer-Human Interaction Conference (CHI) in Seoul this week as part of an industry-university collaboration involving Samsung Electronics.

“Until now, people with upper-limb disabilities have been limited to PCs if they want to use computers,” said developer Ahn Hyun-jin, a student at Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology. There are a number of assistive devices for PCs that are already available for people with disabilities.

In a demo, Ahn attached a small red sticker to his glasses and stood in front of a smartphone linked to a HeadMouse Extreme, a wireless optical sensor that can track the sticker.¬†He was able to navigate through the app’s menus by moving his head from side to side, which controlled a cursor on the smartphone’s screen. When the cursor dwells on a menu item for a second or two, that item is selected.

He repeated the demo with a trackball mouse, a large red sphere used by people with limited finger movement.

The app has a specially designed user interface that uses all four edges of the screen for menus, allowing for more choices such as dragging and tapping items. Users are able to scroll through photos, for instance, or zoom in on photos.

Ahn said eight disabled users tried out the app as part of its development and responded favorably to it, even though they had never used smartphones before.

Ahn said that they will release the application to the Samsung Apps platform in a few months time.

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