Earlier in the year I was contacted by Darrell. Darrell may not realise it, but he is a Lifekludger.
Darrell has a son. His son lives with a disability. His son’s disability prevented him from using a mobile phone.
Unable to press a button to activate ‘hands free’ voice control dialing – yes the irony is less than funny – Darrel came up with a fantastic way around this inability. A fantastic life-kludge.
How It’s Done
By modifying a Bluetooth earpiece so that it is activated by bringing a magnet near it – thereby emulating a button press – his son is able to activate the earpiece with a tilt of his head and then give a voice command. He explains it like this:
“I mounted a magnet next to the headrest on his wheelchair…this allows [him] to simply move his head a few inches to do a quick click which is what he has to do to make a call…or to (simulate) push and hold the button, which is what he does to turn the headset On or OFF. The headset is Based on the BlueAnt V1 because it has a rich set of Voice Commands…which makes it very easy for him to use.”
Now, that, people [and by people I’m pointing at designers of devices] is true hands free voice control of a phone.
Now Darrell didn’t just contact me to brag about this – which nonetheless is definitely worth bragging about – but to offer me a review unit.
The earpiece duly arrived and contained everything one might require to get it up and running, including Blue ant Bluetooth earpiece – with modification; magnet, velcro pocket for magnet attachment, rod for attaching to chair and even multiple plastic wire-ties for attaching said rod. Oh, and instructions. This was very well thought through and welcomed, to see all pieces that would be needed to get it functioning. Too often it’s these extra little things that enable someone with a disability to use a device at all, let alone effectively.
How I Use It
I can lift my hand to my ear but not having sensation in my hand have problems locating small buttons on a earpiece let alone pressing one. This one aspect is the number one priority I have when buying a Bluetooth earpiece.
So my intention was to use the magnet as a replacement for finding and pressing a button. To this end I needed to get the magnet affixed to my wrist splint I wear on my left hand. You can see how this was achieved here.
I found this worked fine, when I could get the ear piece to stay in my ear-hole, a problem rectified with glue – no, on the ear piece, not my ear – and yet the proximity required of the magnet to get it to function was such that I often had the same location issues as when trying to hit a button, loosely summarised as “where the hell is my hand?!” But when I managed to get the hang of what angle my arm needed to be on, I could manage well. If I had one wish, for me, I guess a stronger magnet might be it. Except I wonder how may stray paper clips and lost pins might be attracted to my hand as I go about my day.
Here’s what it kinda looked like:
video snippet of action
I am impressed with the capabilities of the BlueAnt v1 to respond to voice commands to adjust its settings and see why Darrel chose to use it.
I personally didn’t have much joy with voice dialing but thats more a non-function of my old Windows Mobile 5 based PDA, which I use my earpiece with and operate using a pen held in my mouth, and is no reflection on the earpiece mod or it’s function.
The overriding thing that I like about what Darrell’s done with creating the “no buttons headset” is that he’s thought outside the square, solved a problem and more so shared it. And done so paying attention to details such as only someone who has personal experience could do.
He’s shown what’s possible if you think beyond the tunnel vision that a lot of designers and makers of devices get stuck in.
By creating something that doesn’t require pushing a button before using a voice command, the no buttons headset has enabled a Bluetooth earpiece to do true ‘hands free’ voice dialing.
And it’s about time too.