Reaching out to all of you to help me find a completely hands-free cell phone for a higher-level quadriplegic who reached out to me through Quadomated.
I’ve been researching this all day with my Samsung Galaxy S3, and while I’ve gotten close I still need a home screen or headset button press from time to time to wake up the phone and get S-voice (Samsung’s Siri like voice assistant) to start listening. Now this makes complete sense that the cell phone wouldn’t sit there continuously waiting for you to say something as this would quickly use up battery juice, but there must be some way to keep it listening once the phone is plugged in?!?
I find it amazing that in this day in age, especially with all the distracted driving laws keeping our cell phones out of our hands, and people’s excessive need to always stay connected that there isn’t some way to truly use a cell phone hands-free. Take my Samsung Galaxy S3; it has this mode called “Driving Mode” which is supposed to read out the caller information of incoming calls, read text/email messages, give notification of voicemails, announce alarms, schedule updates, yada yada, but it’s extremely flaky and only seems to work sporadically. One would think, that you could combine this with S-voice on a device that is plugged in to a car/wall and have complete hands-free control, you know to be safe and abide by the laws and everything. Is not like these laws or people’s excessive need to use a phone is a new thing. I just really don’t get it!
I’ve looked further at a few additional options to use a cell phone completely hands-free. Two hardware devices appear to quite adequately fit the bill, and one software solution appears to be quite perfect if I can figure out how to disable my Galaxy’s native interface and get it to do the heavy lifting. More on all that below:
This is my favorite option, designed by an automotive technician who wanted to make a truly hands-free cell phone for his son who is a high-level quadriplegic with no use of his arms. It works by using a standard BlueAnt headset and replacing the normal pushbutton switch on the side with an internal magnetic switch which can be activated by moving the headset within 1 inch of a magnet. The magnet can be attached to the wheelchair using an included 29 inch rod, or placed on the user’s hand/wrist brace for those who can move their arms. This is exactly how I would design such a hands-free device, using a Reed switch similar to what makes the window and door security sensors work in my home.
This is a second option that I think could work extremely well while I’m lying in bed. It is a larger, speakerphone device that supposedly works/interfaces with a cell phone completely hands-free. I’ve reached out to the manufacturer of this device to see if they’d send me one to evaluate and place a review up on Quadomated. If it works as prescribed, anyone could use this device completely hands-free. Could be an extremely reasonably priced option for us quadriplegics. I’ll write more as soon as I get to try one out.
While writing this article, I think I may have stumbled on to a very real solution. While typing away, I got thinking back to an Engaget interview with the Chief Technical Officer of Naunce, the folks who make Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and about their recently released voice recognition/mobile assistant apps that have taken a huge step forward. Upon going to the Google Play store, I found a newly released Dragon Mobile Assistant application that was described as follows:
Dragon Mobile Assistant now offers completely hands-free controls, thanks to the new Driver Mode. When turned on, you can wake up Dragon by saying "Hi Dragon," and the assistant will offer you more spoken guidance to help you out when you can't look at the screen. In this mode, Dragon will also read your incoming messages aloud. Now you can access your favorite features in more places than ever before. - Google Play Dragon Mobile Assistant
AWESOMENESS! This is exactly what I’m after, so I installed it and had extremely good results during the short 10 minute break of using it (while writing this post), but ran into one major problem. The native Samsung S-Voice and the Dragon Mobile Assistant were competing with each other to be my virtual assistant; almost like two saucy sounding robots fighting over yours truly ;-). Looks like I’ll have to dig deeper into figuring out how to break up with S-Voice, which doesn’t appear to be an exactly easy/straightforward thing to do (yeah, we’ve all been in those kindof relationships), and date Dragon exclusively to see what happens.
One major thing I noticed right off the bat with Dragon Mobile Assistant… She’s always listening! Dragon seems to always keep my cell phone on and listening when in driving mode, a very good/hugely important thing to make this all work, but very demanding on the ole battery.
So, to all you techie folks out there… PLEASE HELP ME FIGURE OUT A SOLUTION TO GET A TRULY HANDS-FREE CELL PHONE. And to you quadriplegics out there looking for a solution… Hang tight, I’m investigating and quite possibly very close with the new Dragon Mobile Assistant.