Many disabilities create communication limitations for patients and many of these limitations still have poor technological solutions. A new method of sending messages to people, neither through text nor speech, has been developed in a collaboration between Purdue University, MIT, and Facebook. Their prototype device is a wrist pad that has a series of vibrating motors which generates different vibrations depending on the “sounds” that it wants to produce.
The differentiation between sounds is done not only through different vibration patterns, but where on the wrist the vibration happens. The location mimics how the mouth would produce the same sounds, so an “m” or “b” would vibrate on the front of the wrist, just as in the mouth, while a “k” or “g” would vibrate toward the back. Vowels and consonants are differentiated by whether the vibration stays in place or moves a bit along the wrist and whether the vowel is long or short is also intuitively represented by having different amplitudes of vibrations.
The technology is still in an early stage of development, but it may end up serving a much needed way to quickly absorb information for people with different disabilities. Perhaps it may also end up being adopted by the general public to inconspicuously interact with their smartphones.