The smartphone is a technological marvel, and its adoption worldwide is indisputable evidence of its power and wide-ranging usefulness. But despite its global ubiquity, there are still those who would like one of their own, but due to physical limitations involving their hands and fingers, smartphones remain out of reach.
But with a new invention, that is now changing.
A company called Sesame Enable has developed what it claims to be the world's touch-free smartphone, which is operated by tracking users head movements. Computer vision algorithms cause a cursor to pop up on the screen. Utilizing its forward-facing camera, the user then moves their head to control the cursor. Users may also use the phone s settings to adjust its head movement sensitivity and cursor size.
The phone, called the Sesame, which according to the company was "designed by and for people with disabilities" like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, afflictions that undermine or limit the use of the hands. The phone only requires another's help when it's turned on for the first time. After that, the user needs only to say Open Sesame/Sesame Close Phone to turn it on or off. Here's more on how it works.
The device is gaining acclaim, and this week it was named a finalist for the 19th annual Interactive Innovation Awards hosted by SXSW, which bills itself as "a launching pad for new creative content" that includes media, music, technology and film.
We are honored to be recognized by SXSW for using technology to improve the lives of people with disabilities, who have until now been shut out of the smartphone revolution, said CEO and co-founder Oded Ben Dov in a press release.
Sesame Enable previously won the Verizon Powerful Answers Award, the Nominet Trust 100 and Michael Bloomberg's Genesis Generation Challenge. SXSW 2016 will announce its winners on March 15 in Austin, TX.
Four years ago, Dov, a tech wiz, created the Israeli start-up with quadriplegic veteran Giora Livne, after Livne saw Dov give a software demonstration on television.
He came with a prototype about three or four months later, Livne told Forbes. It had taken two years of development to get it sensitive enough. After two years of development, one day, I could use it.
Sesame Enable estimates that there are 600,000 children and adults worldwide just like Livne who can t use standard smartphones. But the device isn't perfected, or entirely convenient. It needs a well-lit room and separately sold mount or stand to function properly. And the phone needs to be turned on by hand if the battery dies.
The Sesame costs $700, which uses Google Nexus 5 hardware. While not yet profitable, the firm aims to sell a thousand units this year. Aided by a $1 million grant from Google, the company also plans to give free smartphones to every hand-disabled child and adult in Israel.