I am very proud to be a judge at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (25-28 Feb) for the fourth year running. There was once again a great set of entries - and now the shortlist of finalists for the 'Best Use of Mobile for Accessibility & Inclusion' has been released, so let's take a look.
The GloMos accessibility shortlist
The Global Mobile Awards (or GloMos for short) celebrate the best of mobile in dozens of categories as diverse as 'Best mobile tech breakthrough', 'Most innovative mobile app' and 'Best mobile innovation for health and biotech'. I judged the 'Best use of mobile for accessibility & inclusion' and the finalists have been announced as follow (in alphabetical order).
Accenture & National Theatre of Great Britain and their Smart Caption Glasses
This entry cleverly combined AR with live subtitling to revolutionise the experience of theatre-goers with a hearing impairment.
The digital consultancy Accenture and London’s National Theatre have teamed up to use AR to help make its performances more accessible for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Wearing a pair of Epson smart glasses, users see a transcript of the dialogue and descriptions of the sound from a performance displayed on the lenses in real time.
Audience members with hearing loss previously relied on dialogue screens at the side of the auditorium (only available for a handful of performances) where you had to switch your attention from the stage to the captions on the screen. An audience member who tried the smart caption glasses for the first time commented, “I thought that the freedom to be able to read the captions and see the actors’ face was a big improvement. I’ve never felt that I was able to do that until I wore the glasses.”
Aira and their 'Visual Interpreter for the Blind' smartglasses
AIRA are smart glasses that use the built-in camera and connectivity to bring assistance to people with a visual impairment. In this case, however, what you're connected to is a trained assistant who provides spoken feedback about what you are looking at. Useful for help with identifying objects, reading documents, menus or medication. These offer a pair of eyes to guide people with a vision impairment through unfamiliar routes or indoor surroundings, or perhaps to provide some crucial fashion advice.
The service isn't free, however. Monthly price plans start at around £89 for 100 minutes of assistance. This includes the smart glasses, insurance and training on how to use them.
Motorica and Beeline for smart prosthetic limbs for children
The team at Motorica are working to revolutionise the power of prostheses. They say that, "Disability shouldn’t limit human capabilities - modern technologies can expand them. We want prosthetics to be perceived not only as medical equipment but also as delivering its own unique super ability. Our users are already modern cyborgs and superheroes"
Together with Russian mobile network giant Beeline, Motorica have developed cutting-edge IoT- enabled prosthetic hands. Most children rely on dummy- hands until they’re 12- 13 years old because high-tech products exist only for adults. Now, instead of useless cosmetic prostheses simulating the presence of a hand, both children and adults have the opportunity to use high- tech and truly functional products that expand their possibilities and bring joy to the patients.
Goshawk Communications bring better call clarity to the hearing-impaired with their smart phone service
Hearing issues vary greatly, and that's why Goshawk Communications is developing a software platform that allows hearing-impaired people to receive a personalised audio signal directly to a phone of their choice.
Goshawk founder Matthew Turner, a former director of corporate finance with Ernst & Young in Brussels, has been hearing impaired since birth - and, like many hearing-impaired people, has trouble using normal phones due to call and speech-clarity issues. "The inability of those who have hearing loss to receive a call specifically tailored to their needs is a global and unresolved problem," Turner says.
Goshawk's technology is based on four steps: People with hearing impairment download a hearing test; the software maps and measures their hearing loss; it enhances frequencies the user finds difficult to hear; and it then delivers a phone call over an Internet protocol or telecoms network specifically tailored to that person's hearing issues.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority ‘AllAccess’ app
Rightpoint, Outfront Media and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Association (MBTA) came together to create a solution that reinvented the way visually impaired passengers navigate the city’s train system.
This partnership was formed around the mission to create an app that utilises beacon, voice over technology and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Association’s APIs to develop a more convenient way for the visually impaired to commute through Boston.
User testing and a smart-city analysis allowed the team to target the key problem areas that visually impaired passengers face when traveling around the city.
Knowing that many users found it challenging to do several key things when navigating within a train station, including the ability to locate the correct platform for their train, identify the distance to the platform edge, determine when trains have arrived, understand when delays or outages occur, and identify what street each exit leads to, the team have helped change the commuting experience for the visually impaired by giving them pinpoint-accurate and timely voice commands through their smartphone.
And the winner is…
Well you'll have to wait and see. The announcement will be made at Mobile World Congress on Tuesday 26 Feb, but I'll be sure to do a further post about the winner soon thereafter. Winners of other categories will be announced throughout the week.
Many congratulations to all the shortlisted entries above and keep up the good work in making the world a better, more accessible place.