"With the Lorm Glove, deaf-blind people gain access to information on their own"

Directly and on-site – this is what communication currently looks like for deaf-blind persons. The Lorm Alphabet they use is a spelling alphabet and is directly lormed into the palm of your hand. Communication over distances is only possible via an intermediary. A glove is now meant to change all that.

10/01/2015

Photo: Tom Bieling

Tom Bieling; © Design Research Lab, Berlin

Tom Bieling is a design researcher at the Design Research Lab at the Berlin University of the Arts. He and his team developed the glove called Lorm Glove. He told REHACARE.de how the Lorm Glove works and what potential it has.

Mr. Bieling, how did you come up with the idea of developing the Lorm Glove?

Tom Bieling: In my research, I concentrate on human-machine interaction and the role of technology in everyday life. For years, my focus has been on technology and inclusion or technology and disability, respectively.

Generally, mobile communication and technology are frequently aimed more at majorities, so those who are already a part of a minority, fall through the cracks. This is why I began wondering how technology can simplify everyday life for blind and deaf persons for example. When I offered a public workshop on this subject with deaf persons, I also received an inquiry from a deaf-blind person. Even though this didn’t fit into the agenda that same day, it sparked my interest in the subject.

What happened next?

Bieling: I initially looked into the communication options for deaf-blind persons and especially the Lorm Alphabet. How does it actually work? Where and how can you learn it? We, this means my colleagues Ulrike Gollner, Tiago Martins and I, then met many times with a group of deaf-blind persons. We discussed questions such as how technology can help so that deaf-blindness no longer plays a key role in communication.

Initially, these deliberations were just a side project. I met with so-called primary and secondarily affected persons and solved technical issues, jointly thought about user-friendliness and functional capabilities but also about the suitability needed for daily use and the risk of being stigmatized.
Photo: Fingers touch another hand during lorming

According to the Lorm Alphabet there is a point in the hand for every letter. In order to communicate these points are touched; © private: Edi Haug, Laura M. Schwengber

The result of all of these considerations was a special glove that makes communication over distances possible for deaf-blind persons. How does the Lorm Glove work?

Bieling: The Lorm Glove can both send and receive text messages. It converts input on the palm of the hand into spoken and/or written messages. Incoming texts are directly conveyed to the hand via vibration signals. When a certain spot at the thumb vibrates, for instance, the letter "a" is being transmitted. The sensors for the individual letters correspond to the Lorm Alphabet and are located all over the palm of the hand. In doing so, the entire palm is connected. A pattern recognition software also runs in the background. If a triangle or square is typed by mistake, the glove recognizes the only possible translation as a circle which corresponds to the letter "s".

We primarily aimed the first prototype at functionality and less at exterior aspects. It was really a glove, where now it is more of a tactile surface to strap on. Initially, the signals were also being received on the back of the hand, but now everything takes place in the palm of the hand: lorming, sending, and receiving.
Photo: Table with several prototypes of the Lorm Glove

A lot has changed from the first prototype until today. But the development of the Lorm Glove is not finally finished yet; © Design Research Lab, Berlin

Aside from the glove, there is also the Lorm Hand. What is that all about?

Bieling: Our research team was invited to a large deaf-blind demonstration in Berlin. Since we didn’t want to potentially damage our Lorm Glove prototype on-site, we subsequently developed the hand sculpture (Lorm Hand). So far, the Lorm Hand can only write and send. However, it is automatically connected to various social networks. Since it also provides visual feedback for people who can see, it is perfectly suited as an entrance and learning aid.

You could also say that the hand is the conventional telephone network counterpart of the mobile glove. Even though you can presently only write and send text messages with the hand, we want to make sure that you can soon also receive texts.
Photo: Lorm Glove, Lorm Hand and Social Media icons

The connection with different Social Media channel makes it easier to communicate with others who are in another place; © Design Research Lab, Berlin

To what extent can the Lorm Glove contribute to inclusion and make a self-determined life possible?

Bieling: Searching for unfiltered information on their own is especially important for deaf-blind persons. Thanks to the Lorm Glove, they can communicate at anytime, anywhere with whoever they want! Otherwise, their access to the world is rather limited. Usually, they rely on one-to-one communication. This generally puts them in a more passive position. For communicating over distances, there is always at least one person as a go-between who often automatically filters the information. With the Lorm Glove, deaf-blind persons gain access to information on their own and are able to communicate over distances. Now, it I also possible for them to communicate with several people at the same time.

So the disability per se actually becomes less relevant?

Bieling: That’s right. "Tom, the deaf-blind person" primarily becomes "Tom". And in everyday life, the disability would no longer automatically be the focal point. Since the glove is connected to the smartphone via Bluetooth while an app runs in the background, minor everyday activities can also become less complicated. Buying a bus ticket or getting bread is becoming significantly easier with the Lorm Glove for example.
More about the Design Research Lab, Berlin at: www.design-research-lab.org
Foto: Nadine Lormis; Copyright: B. Frommann

© B. Frommann


Nadine Lormis
REHACARE.de