Smarter Phones Get Smarter

Jul 22, 2013

Cell phones seem to be everywhere, but they’re not always easy for everyone to use. An industrial design class at Virginia Tech invented a very smart, smartphone designed for people missing a limb… and everyone else.  

The design solution the students came up with is for the following scenario: a woman returning from war with her dominant arm amputated. The idea was to design a phone she could use by clenching different muscles in her jaw.

"The phone would send a signal to my earpiece, which would give me a beep ,that there’s an incoming call and I have a choice whether to do the two second clench, that activates that yes, ‘pick up the phone’ and without even touching the phone I can start talking," said Akshay Sharma is an associate professor of Architecture and Design at Virginia Tech.

Sharma led a team of students working with Industrial Design colleague Mitsy Vernon, collaborating with an Atlanta group working to provide wireless access for people with disabilities. Tech’s winning student team took a silver medal in the UX contest. UX stands for User experience. Sharma says that means, the focus is not so much on designing a new cell phone, but on how it will enrich the lives of people using it.  

"The largest demographic in our country in the next few years is going to be people above 65; Vision issues, flexibility issues, all these things and there are no products or services designed specifically for them, so that was the premise of the class.”

The International UX Awards is not a student competition. The Virginia Tech students competed with the likes of Google, Nike, and Bloomberg to earn a silver medal.