So much of what we see at CES tends to be focused on technological innovation for the sake of innovation, or obvious attempts to tap into whatever trend is gripping the internet’s attention that year. In the last few shows, though, there has been a heartening increase in attention to assistive products that are designed to help improve the lives of people with disabilities and other different needs. At CES 2024, I was glad to see more development in the accessibility category, with many offerings appearing to be more thoughtfully designed in addition to being clever. It’s so easy to get distracted by the shiny, eye-catching, glamorous and weird tech at CES, but I wanted to take the time to give due attention to some of my favorite accessibility products here in Las Vegas.
Before I even packed my bags, numerous coworkers had sent me the link to GyroGlove’s website after it had been recognized as an honoree for several CES Innovation awards. The device is a hand-stabilizing glove that uses gyroscopic force to help those with hand tremors minimize the shakes. Because the demo unit at the show floor was too large for me, and, more importantly, I don’t have hand tremors, I couldn’t accurately assess the glove’s effectiveness.
But I spoke with a person with Parkinson’s Disease at the booth, who had been wearing one for a few days. She said the GyroGlove helped her perform tasks like buttoning up a shirt more easily, and that she intended to buy one for herself. At $5,899, the device is quite expensive, which is the sad state of assistive products these days. But GyroGlove’s makers said they’re in talks with some insurance providers in the US, which could lead to it being covered for those in America who could benefit from it. That’s one of the biggest reasons that led us to name GyroGlove one of our winners for CES 2024.
I did not think I’d be looking deep into a person’s mouth and up their nose at CES 2024, but here we are. Sometimes you have to do strange things to check out unconventional gadgets. The MouthPad is as unusual as it gets. It’s a tongue-operated controller for phones, tablets and laptops, and basically anything that will accept a Bluetooth mouse input. The components include a touchpad mounted onto the palette of what’s essentially a retainer, as well as a battery and Bluetooth radio.
As odd as the concept sounds, it actually could be a boon for people who aren’t able to use their limbs, since your tongue, as a muscle, can offer more precise movement and control than, say, your eyes. If you’re feeling apprehensive about sticking a device inside your mouth, it might be helpful to know that the battery is from the same company that’s made them for medical-grade implants, while the rest of the dental tray is made from a resin that’s commonly used in aligners and bite guards. The product is currently available as an early access package that includes setup and calibration assistance, with a new version (with longer battery life) slated for launch later this year.
Assistive tech company OrCam won our Best of CES award for accessibility in 2022, so I was eager to check out what it had in store this year. I wasn’t disappointed. The company had a few updated products to show off, but the most intriguing was a new offering for people with hearing loss. The OrCam Hear system is a three-part package consisting of a pair of earbuds, a dongle for your phone and an app. Together, the different parts work to filter out background noise while identifying and isolating specific speakers in a multi-party conversation.
At a demo during a noisy event at CES 2024, I watched and listened as the voices of selected people around me became clear or muffled as company reps dragged their icons in or out of my field of hearing. I was especially impressed when the system was able to identify my editor next to me and let me choose to focus on or filter out his voice.
If you’re a gamer, you’ll know how important audio cues can sometimes be for a successful run. Developers frequently design the sound environment for their games to be not only rich and immersive, but to also contain hints about approaching enemies or danger. Players who are hard of hearing can miss out on this, and it’s not fair for them to be disadvantaged due to a disability.
A product called Audio Radar can help turn sound signals into visual cues, so that gamers with hearing loss can “see the sound,” according to the company. The setup is fairly simple. A box plugs into a gaming console to interpret the audio output and convert it into lights. A series of RGB light bars surround the screen, and display different colors depending on the type of sound coming from the respective direction they represent.
CES 2024 saw not just Audio Radar’s official launch, but was also where the company introduced its SDK for game developers to create custom visual cues for players who are hard of hearing. The company’s founder and CEO Tim Murphy told Engadget that it’s partnering with Logitech, with the gaming accessory maker “providing support as we further develop our product and design our go-to-market strategy.”
Google Glass was resurrected at CES 2024. Sort of. A new product called Transcribe Glass is a small heads up display you can attach to any frames, and the result looks a lot like the long-dead Google device. It connects to your phone and uses that device’s onboard processing to transcribe what it hears, then projects the text onto the tiny transparent display hovering above the eye. You’ll be able to resize the font, adjust the scrolling speed and choose your language model of choice, since TranscribeGlass uses third-party APIs for translation. Yes, it converts foreign languages into one you understand, too.
The company is targeting year’s end for launch, and hoping to offer the device at $199 to start. When I tried it on at the show floor, I was surprised by how light and adjustable the hardware was. I had to squint slightly to see the captions, and was encountering some Bluetooth lag, but otherwise the transcriptions took place fairly quickly and appeared to be accurate. The TranscribeGlass should last about eight hours on a charge, which seems reasonable given all that it’s doing.
Samsung’s subtitle accessibility features
Though we didn’t catch a demo of this in person, Samsung did briefly mention a “sign language feature in Samsung Neo QLED” that “can be easily controlled with gestures for the hearing impaired, and an Audio Subtitle feature [that] turns text subtitles into spoken words in real-time for those with low vision.” We weren’t able to find this at the show, but the concept is certainly meaningful. Plus, the fact that Samsung TVs have mainstream appeal means these features could be more widely available that most of the niche products we’ve covered in this roundup.
We’re reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas from January 6-12. Keep up with all the latest news from the show here.