Using the Malossi alphabet (an intuitive tactile alphabet invented by an Italian deafblind), two deaf-blind people can communicate by typing on each others' hand, in turns: they touch different areas of the palm, each corresponding to a letter.
The Malossi alphabet is extremely intuitive, and it relies on basic touch cues. Letters are located in a clockwise order over the phalanxes. Letters from A to O are pressed, and letters from P to Z are pinched.
The alphabet is widely employed with children and people having cognitive impairments, who cannot learn more complex communication methods (e.g., the Lorm or Braille alphabets).
The Malossi layout can apply to multiple languages, and to phonemes. In addition to representing letters, single or multiple touch cues can express concepts.
The Malossi alphabet enables individuals to achieve touch-based communication thanks to a form of on-body signing based on a tactile code in which phalanxes represent letters.
dbGLOVE translates the basic interaction system realized by the Malossi alphabet into a wearable device.
dbGLOVE consists of 18 sensitive areas that are mapped into distinct control signals, which can be utilized to represent letters and symbols.
Each of the 18 sensitive areas include a capacitive sensor and a vibrotactile actuator. The former can be triggered by simply touching them with one finger, to activate the corresponding control signal. The latter is employed to generate vibrations that simulate touch cues on the phalanx.
The deaf-blind can wear the device on the left hand, and they can type messages on their own palm, as on a keyboard.
Touch cues can represent control signals that can be utilized to open applications, to control appliances, and to operate commands. Alternatively, touch cues can consist of messages: they can be displayed on the screen, translated into speech, or transmitted over the Internet.
Intensity, duration, rhythm and tempo of touch cues can be configured via software, to accommodate the specific preferences of each user.
Each of the sensitive areas of dbGLOVE can be remapped into a control configuration of choice, in order to support specific functions or languages. This is done via software, without any hardware modification.
dbGLOVE connects to any Bluetooth-enabled device, such as smartphones, tablets, and PCs. dbGLOVE implements the Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) protocol, in order to save power and increase battery life.
dbGLOVE supports all the most common mobile Applications, such as e-mail clients, Internet browsers, document readers, and chat applications.
Dedicated Apps can be developed using the dbGLOVE SDK, which will be released soon. The dbGLOVE SDK supports gaming and 3d modeling.
dbGLOVE hardware and firmware are released as Open Source, so that the community can contribute to the development.
Also, dbGLOVE includes a tactile monitor. So, the deaf-blind can receive messages in the form of tactile stimulation, as if someone was typing on their palm.
Replies can be received by the user in the form of vibrotactile stimulation at different intensity and frequency that simulate touch and pinch cues, as if someone was typing on their hand.
As a result, the device is able to provide the user with bi-directional communication: they can write and read messages.