Feeling Out the Concept: Haptic Watch For the Deaf/Blind

Designing a watch for a blind person is easy enough: have it read out the time so the user can hear it. But what about for a user who is both deaf and blind? Helen Keller, arguably the most famous deaf/blind person to ever live, was the inspiration behind the Helen Keller Watch, a timepiece that keeps track of the time via tactile bumps.

The concept is quite simple, but sophisticated in its design. The small white disc features a thin membrane, under which three-dimensional dots take the positions of the watch’s hands. After activating the watch by touching the center, users can discreetly feel the time indicated by the bumps.

The watch was designed by Andrea Seitner and Katharina Unger, students at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Their goal was to provide a convenient timepiece for those who can’t use the traditional pocket watch. But their design is so sleek and sophisticated that it’s easy to imagine it appealing even to people who have no trouble reading the face of a standard watch.

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See more in Clocks & Watches or under Gadgets. August, 2011.