Smartstones Touch brings a voice to those who can’t speak

Whatever the language, most of us communicate with our voices, but what happens when voice is no longer an option? An upcoming gadget called Smartstones Touch is designed to give people the ability to converse through non-verbal methods.

As its name suggests, the Smartstones Touch is a palm-sized, pebble-like device that uses a series of taps, gestures, swipes, lights, vibration, and sound to send short messages to a connected smartphone.

For example, it could be used by a child returning home, who makes a unique gesture pattern on the Touch to alert her mom; a person held up in a meeting, who needs to send a quick note to a colleague that he’s running late; an autistic child who isn’t able to use words to talk; or a senior citizen who can’t speak due to illness, who uses the Touch to communicate with a caretaker. You can even use it for fun, sending secret messages to a friend or loved one.

With the Touch, you can swipe a pattern to communicate a preset “visual” message (there’s a list of messages you can send, or you can create custom ones) to someone by your side. The Touch can also relay the message to a connected smartphone, allowing the user to communicate with someone remotely. The other person can then send a response via smartphone to the Touch user, like reminding grandma to take her pills.

For non-health applications, the Touch can be customized with unique gestures and messages that are relevant to the situation, like the office or child returning home scenarios. The number of different messages you can send depends on how many finger gestures you can remember, which, surprisingly, is a lot (however, Smartstones is starting with 12, to make things simple to understand).

The top surface of the Touch uses capacitive technology similar to that of smartphones or Apple’s Magic Mouse. It has a six-axis accelerometer and gyroscope to detect motion. Smartstones is working on building a gesture library that would recognize motion gestures as another communication tool. Because the Touch is designed to be wearable, Smartstones also created a leather cuff and gold or silver pendant to hold the device. Each Touch also comes with a box that doubles as a portable Qi Wireless inductive charging base.

Smartstones Touch

In developing the product, Smartstones worked with medical institutions, universities, scientists, patients, and nonprofit organizations, including the 90 Foundation, a group supporting ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) research. Smartstones the company is led by experienced designers, engineers, and researchers. They include advisers David Rose, a researcher at MIT’s Media Lab who founded a wireless health-related company, and Mary Anne Masterson, who headed up user experience development at Microsoft.

While there are plenty of creative uses, the Touch’s designers intended the device to give a voice to people who aren’t able to communicate verbally. Of course, the Touch isn’t the first non-verbal form of communication. There’s sign language, braille, and even facial gestures. But, using technology, the Touch is designed to give anyone – particularly those incapacitated by disease or illness – the means to non-verbally communicate quickly, without the time required to learn something like sign language or braille.

Smartstones is planning to launch the Touch’s companion smartphone app in advance of the Touch’s hardware release, to allow people to get used to the platform.

The Touch is entering its final stretch of fundraising on Indiegogo. The funding it receives will be used to promote the product and to help fund initial production. Whether or not it meets its goals, the company tells us that it’s shooting for delivery by the end of 2015. If you want to be one of the first adopters, a pledge of $80 with get you a Smartstones Touch.

Product Review

Fitbit’s Inspire HR fitness tracker nails the basics and keeps the price low

Fitbit targets the new user with the Inspire HR, a low-cost, lightweight fitness tracker that covers all the basics. I put the device through its paces. It not only lived up to our expectations for an entry-level tracker, but sometimes…

Apple's iOS 12.2 brings support for Apple News Plus and new AirPlay 2 features

After months of betas, the final version of iOS 12 is here to download. The latest OS comes along with tons of new capabilities, from grouped notifications to Siri Shortcuts. Here are all the features you'll find in iOS 12.

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for March 2019

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.
Product Review

Chris is the virtual co-pilot phone-obsessives need in their car

Driving while using your phone is dangerous, and often illegal. Meet Chris, the digital assistant for your car that wants to help keep your hands off your phone, and your eyes on the road.

The Tacs Nato-Lens is a watch for those who live life through a camera lens

Not all watches have to be round, or connect to your phone. The Tacs Nato-Lens is a stylish piece of wristwear with a design inspired by classic SLR cameras, making it a geeky timepiece for the camera and watch fan.

Alpina makes its AlpinerX smartwatch even more attractive with new colors

Alpina has introduced four new colors to its AlpinerX smartwatch range, breaking the usually sporty watch out into a more everyday casual design, and given the tech a slight makeover too.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robotic companions and computer-aided karaoke

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!

New gold finish makes Frederique Constant’s hybrid smartwatch flashier than ever

Frederique Constant has found considerable success with its luxury hybrid smartwatch, the Hybrid Manufacture, and has launched several new color schemes to help bring it even more attention.

Like a car, this watch has dampers on the strap to make it more comfortable

Like a car, this stunning luxury watch has shock absorbing dampers that attach the strap to the case, rather than a more traditional system, to increase comfort. We've worn one, and it really seems to work.

Tag Heuer’s Golf Edition smartwatch is a lot more than just a flash of new color

Tag Heuer's Golf Edition Connected Modular 45 smartwatch has a lot more going for it than just a flashy new color scheme. From the titanium body and black PVD coating to the new Golf app, this is a true special edition.

This $76,000 Grand Seiko watch has something in common with a plug-in hybrid car

How can a watch that costs $76,000 possibly have anything in a common with any car, let alone a plug-in hybrid? It's all about the complex, technically incredible Spring Drive movement inside this Grand Seiko watch.

Apple March 2019 Event Coverage

Apple’s next event will take place March 25 at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California at 10 a.m. PT. We’ve got a handy guide on how to watch, but don’t expect to see any new iPads, iMacs, or AirPods at the show, all of…

Looking to get in shape for the new year? Snag one of these fitness trackers

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.

It’s time to check out the best Apple Watch deals for March 2019

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.