Sesame Enable will now be available for free to people who need it. Sesame Enable will now be available for free to people who need it. Sesame Enable will now be available for free to people who need it. (Photo: Basti Hansen)

Google partnership gives away hands-free smartphones to the disabled

The Sesame Smartphone allows users to control the phones with their heads.

Smartphone technology for the physically disabled will now have an easier time getting into the hands of the people who need it most, thanks to a partnership between Google and the Israeli company Sesame Enable, developers of the Sesame Phone, billed as the world's first completely touch-free smartphone.

The device costs around $1,000, but thanks to Google and Beit Issie Shapiro, an Israel-based global advocacy group for people with disabilities, Sesame Enable is offering its device for free to disabled people in Israel – with hopes of expanding the program elsewhere in the near future.

The company recently released its own Nexus 5 smartphone preloaded with the technology, after a successful Indiegogo campaign raised enough money to support the project. The software system continues to be available for integration into other smartphones and tablets as well.

The phone uses vision algorithms to track head movements through its camera. To start the phone, users need only utter "Open Sesame" and it will turn on. You can fully navigate through the phone menu, open applications, write messages, play games, make calls, etc., all with subtle movements of the head. Users can even play a hands-free version of the popular Candy Crush game.

Open Sesame has been able to differentiate itself from other phone technologies for the disabled because it is software-based, as opposed to hardware-based, and is more comprehensive than standalone apps. For its efforts, it's won several awards, including Michael Bloomberg’s Genesis Generation Challenge earlier this year, and the Verizon Powerful Answers Award last year.

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Google partnership gives away hands-free smartphones to the disabled
The Sesame Smartphone allows users to control the phones with their heads.