eBay develops hands free app for people with motor impairments

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eBay has revealed that it has developed a hands free app for mobile devices to make online shopping easier for people with motor impairments. The app uses uses motions from the head to navigate the user interface on the iPhone X and is billed as HeadGaze.

By pointing your head towards the up and down buttons, the app scrolls to different daily deals in different categories and by pointing your head towards the left and right buttons, the app swipes items one after another horizontally like a carousel. The technology is available via open source on GitHub.com from today and uses Apple ARKit and the iPhone X camera.

To get a greater sense of how this works, check out this video:

The brains behind the fascinating new initiative explains on the eBay blog the rationale behind the new feature:

Do you like shopping alone? I wish I could shop by myself, without my mother’s incessant color suggestions and best friend’s unwarranted comments on my brand preferences. As someone with extensive motor impairments, I do not have full control of my limbs. Consequently, I am unable to walk or grab anything with my hands. These limitations hinder my ability to perform everyday tasks, like going to the grocery store and shopping independently—even though I have my own income.
– Muratcan Cicek, eBay Intern and PhD Candidate at University of California, Santa Cruz

Needless to say, anything that helps people with physical impairments to shop and use eBay (or indeed any service) is to be welcomed. And also, from a commercial point of view, it enables a whole new cadre of users to go shopping. It’s thought that 39.5 million people in the US have some sort of physical impairment.

eBay says that the potentially profound impact that this hands free app technology could have for many people is why they have decided to make it open source and freely available to developers online.

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