“Hello, I can’t move my hands or legs, could you make me a smartphone I could use?” This was the phone call I received around 5 years ago, that has completely changed my life.
My name is Oded Ben Dov and I used to write apps and games for smartphones. After appearing on TV with a game we developed that was controlled by head gestures, I got the phone call above from Giora Livne. Giora, a released Lieutenant Colonel from the Israeli Navy, became paralyzed 10 years ago after falling off a ladder and hitting his spine.
I had no former acquaintance with disabilities before Giora called, but once he presented the problem so concisely – “can you make me a smartphone I could use?” – I knew I found a calling beyond just games. It was a chance to put my skills and knowhow towards serving a much deserving population. It also presented a strong case for the use of gesture technology, which until today has been lacking in other fields.
We set out to meet and it turned out we are neighbours! I quickly agreed to the project and Sesame Enable was born, with the mission of developing a completely touch-free smartphone for those with limited to no use of their hands.
With the help of our 3rd partner, Vlady Ostrovski, we had a working proof-of-concept in no time and realized we were on to something. Beta testers were brought in to trial the technology and to make sure we were catering to a wider audience than just Giora. During this time, we met people with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, ALS, spinal muscular atrophy, congenital muscular dystrophy, and other conditions. Customization features were constantly added to make sure we were answering our users’ individual needs.
In 2015, the technology was launched to the public and received interest from all over the world. At first, Sesame Enable came pre-installed on a phone and it was only later in 2016 that Google recognized the need for our solution, making it possible for us to become an app on their Play Store.
“Open Sesame! Touch Free Access” works by monitoring the user through the front facing camera. Movements of the head control an on-screen mouse cursor that allows for tapping & swiping, effectively making the entire phone or tablet accessible without touch. Users can download any app from the store and use it with the same interface; no additional modifications are needed. The technology is quite remarkable to see and always gets a “Wow!” when shown to either users or technology enthusiasts.
Our users testify that Open Sesame! Has proved a life changing solution, giving them the independence to call and communicate without the help of others. Being able to control the phone on your own also means more privacy, with no one around to listen in on the conversation. Users also mention safety, productivity, equality and entertainment as key values in the solution. Some even install smart home systems and so the control and independence propagates to their physical surroundings.
I am extremely happy to have met Giora and let me him take me on this exciting adventure. We are looking now to bring the solution to anyone who needs it, going from hundreds of users to thousands and eventually millions. As we grow, I believe Sesame will cater to an ever greater range of disabilities, always harnessing cutting-edge technology to where it really matters.