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Embedded technologies enhance daily life for persons with disabilities
Bones Inc., a Swiss company, evolved from an inspiring phone call in 2003. Stephan Knecht had resigned from his job in management consulting and was randomly calling companies and organizations for business ideas. The Swiss association for the blind and visually impaired immediately put him on the right track by providing detailed descriptions of necessary products for making society accessible in ways that most people take for granted.
A voice recorder became the first device in the Bones product line. Today, Bones sells various devices (about 10,000) from its line of assistive technologies for the blind and visually impaired. The company is dedicated to serving a target group that requires usability beyond the ordinary.
"In 2003, we had bi-weekly meetings with members of the association," says Stephan Knecht, CEO of Bones Inc. in Neuhausen, Switzerland. "They explained to me what this market sector needs."
Weighing in at 49 grams and loaded with functionality, the Milestone 312 is a portable device contains recording and speech playback functions, music, and audio books—not so impressive compared to MP3 players available in stores. But if you carefully read the functions and features list, you quickly realize that this isn’t an ordinary device. For example: text files are read out loud using synthetic speech. An ingenious RFID technology application enables object tracking within the home. And a portable color reader connected via the USB on-the-go interface tells blind users the color of an object, which is particularly useful when deciding what to wear.
Enabling usable, useful features and functions for varying needs
Users must able to rely on hearing and sensing to browse file structures and get access to features and functions. That’s why radio-frequency identification (RFID) and other technologies are needed. For example, instead of displays, Bones devices contain synthetic speech and big buttons in distinctive shapes.
During development, close cooperation with user groups (via meetings and system tests) ensures that final products meet customers’ requirements. Usability is everything.