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New Smartphone Aims To Improve Lives Of Amputees

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Cell phones seem to be everywhere, but they're not always easy for everyone to use. An industrial design class at Virginia Tech invented a very smart, smartphone designed for people missing a limb... and everyone else.

The design solution the students came up with is for the following scenario: a woman returning from war with her dominant arm amputated. The idea was to design a phone she could use by clenching different muscles in her jaw.

"The phone would send a signal to my earpiece, which would give me a beep, that there's an incoming call, and I have a choice -- whether to do the two second clench, that activates that yes, pick up the phone, and without even touching the phone I can start talking," explains Akshay Sharma, an associate professor of Architecture and Design at Virginia Tech.

Sharma led a team of students working with Industrial Design colleague Mitsy Vernon, collaborating with an Atlanta group working to provide wireless access for people with disabilities.

Tech's winning student team took a silver medal in the UX contest — UX standing for user experience. Sharma says that means the focus is not so much on designing a new cell phone, but on how it will enrich the lives of people using it.

"The largest demographic in our country in the next few years is going to be people above 65," says Sharma. She says issues such as vision deterioration and flexibility problems are matters that innovative designs need to address.

The International UX Awards is not a student competition. The Virginia Tech students competed with the likes of Google, Nike, and Bloomberg to earn a silver medal.

NPR

How Photos Of Crisis Can Shape The Events They Represent

NPR's Rachel Martin talks with Kira Pollack, director of photography and visual enterprise at Time, about how iconic photos might affect the conversation about the events they have come to represent.
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How Big Egg Tried To Bring Down Little 'Mayo' (And Failed)

Newly released emails from the American Egg Board reveal embarrassing details about its fight against the vegan product Just Mayo. Industry critics say the board's antics may have broken the law.
WAMU 88.5

Friday News Roundup - International

Hungary struggles to deal with thousands of migrants at a Budapest train station. World leaders react to news the Obama administration clears a hurdle on the Iran nuclear deal. And the king of Saudi Arabia makes his first official visit to Washington. A panel of journalists joins guest host Tamara Keith for analysis of the week's top international news stories.

NPR

How The Architect Of Netflix's Innovative Culture Lost Her Job To The System

Netflix is famous for pioneering a company culture that demands standout results from every employee. One of the architects of this philosophy ended up losing her job to the system she created.

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