Samsung Dowell Assists Persons With Upper Limb Disabilities Using Smartphones

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by Charles Moore |

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For most of us, using a smartphone is pretty intuitive, simply requiring touch input on the display to operate the device. However, for persons with disabilities of the upper extremities that cause difficulty using their hands and fingers, smartphones are considerably less simple to manipulate.

Samsung Electronics has recently announced its development of an application called DOWELL that allows users with upper limb disabilities to control their smartphones. According to a report in Samsung Tomorrow, the Samsung Electronics Official Global Blog, the company is planning to launch the DOWELL service later this year.

DOWELLinuseSamsung’s DOWELL is a dwell-time-based smartphone control solution for persons with upper limb disabilities rendering them unable to interact with a touchscreeen interface. DOWELL is an smartphone application that works in harmony with existing computer assistance devices and requires no additional smartphone assistance devices.

Currently, workarounds for persons with upper limb disabilities have included head operated mouse devices, trackballs, and other assistive technologies to help them interact with computers. In conjunction with these devices, disabled individuals are enabled to use computers with the help of software that eliminates the need for button click control.

However, smartphones require a range of manipulative motions and gestures such as tap-clicking, swiping, and pinching to operate, which confound the efforts of upper limb disabled individuals attempting to use these devices. Nevertheless, despite the fact that smartphones are not far short of universal adoption these days, no smartphone assistance program for those with upper limb disabilities had yet been developed until now.

Use DOWELL Through Existing Computer Assistance Devices

A disabled user with the DOWELL application and his or her smartphone connected to a USB-type computer assistive device via a USB OTG cable, they will be able to use the upper and lower sections of the smartphone screen as DOWELL’s user interface. Within the upper screen, one can opt to tap or drag, among other touch commands. From the lower screen, the user can access the menu, home screen, back function and other basic hardware keys of the Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

Utilizing Edges – Guardrail UI

By placing the buttons on each of the four edges, the Guardrail UI allows the cursor to move along the edges, which helps the users accurately choose buttons.

Various Gestures For Smartphone

In a smartphone environment, various gestures are necessary. DOWELL supports eight total gestures: tap, long tap, scroll, swipe, zoom-in, zoom-out, and drag and drop. Samsung Tomorrow cites Prof. Sang-Mook Lee, a marine geophysicist and professor at Seoul National University’s Marine Geophysics & Geodynamics Lab, who usingDOWELLhelped in developing the DOWELL program, noted: “The hardest part of using smartphones for people with severe disabilities, including myself, is the touch control aspect. In fact, DOWELL all but eliminates this problem, opening up many possibilities for the future.” Quadriplegic as a result of a 2006 automobile accident, Prof. Lee is sometimes referred to as the “Stephen Hawking of Korea.” (Image Courtesy Seoul National University Marine Geophysics & Geodynamics Lab)

Mr. Keun-hong Yook, who has an upper extremity disability, and who participated in testing the DOWELL app in Korea, told Samsung Tomorrow that “When people with disabilities gain access to smartphones, they can not only communicate, search, and do many other things, but can also control all home appliances, thanks to the generational shift of IoT technology, which is greatly changing the lives of many people with disabilities.”

DOWELL was created by Samsung Software Membership, an organization that aims to assist both undergraduate and graduate students in gaining software expertise, along with employees of the Samsung Electronics Software Center. DOWELL is available on most currently in service Samsung smartphones (Galaxy S3 to the most recent models) and will be commercialized in the third quarter of this year.

Find out more about DOWELL at:

Samsung Electronics
Samsung Tomorrow
Seoul National University Marine Geophysics & Geodynamics Lab

Image Credits:
Samsung Electronics
Samsung Tomorrow
Seoul National University Marine Geophysics & Geodynamics Lab