South Korean researchers develop app to help those with arm paralysis

An app that helps people with arm paralysis use smartphones is expected to be released to the Samsung Apps platform in a few months.

The app, dubbed Dowell, is designed to assist people who have difficulty using their hands. It is targeted at people with muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), stroke and other ailments that restrict movement, according to Network World.

The app has a user interface that works with various input methods for disabled people. It can receive information from a trackball mouse, head-tracking camera and mouth stick, a tool for manipulating a cursor with the mouth.

The project was being presented at the 2015 Computer-Human Interaction Conference (CHI) in Seoul, South Korea, 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, in the Network World report. A number of assistive devices for PCs already are available for people with disabilities.

In a demonstration, 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.

By moving his head from side to side, he was able to navigate through the app's menus by controlling a cursor on the smartphone's screen. It's designed such that when the cursor dwells on a menu item for a second or two, that item is then selected.

The app has a 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.

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, the report said.

For more:
- see this Network World story

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