TechMatters: Samsung’s Good Vibes app helps deaf-blind people communicate

Samsung's Good Vibes app helps deaf-blind people communicate.
Image: Samsung

TechMatters is a semi-regular column exploring the intersection between tech and our lives, why it matters, and how it’s helping to improve our quality and vitality of life. 

Here, we will profile new startups and products that have a vested interest in the betterment of life on a physical, emotional, and humanitarian level.

People who can see and hear normally navigate a vast world filled with sights and sounds. This sensory data informs their choices and movements. It also helps people to communicate and form relationships.

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By comparison, individuals who are deaf-blind live with a combination of hearing and visual impairments. As such, they experience the world in a unique way. Thus, learning how to communicate is a key way for them to enrich their daily lives.

Unfortunately, a lack of financial and educational resources can prevent deaf-blind persons from getting the kind of help they need to broaden their world, expand their capabilities, and reach their highest potential.

Thankfully, Samsung has partnered with Sense International India to change the lives of deaf-blind people via a groundbreaking communication app called Good Vibes.

Understanding Deaf-Blindness

People diagnosed with deaf-blindness can experience it in varying degrees of severity. According to the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB), some people are completely deaf, blind, and unable to speak. Others are not totally blind or deaf. In some cases, a person can see but can’t hear before eventually losing his/her eyesight or vice-versa.

Causes of deaf-blindness vary and include Usher Syndrome, Congenital Rubella Syndrome, CHARGE Syndrome, premature birth, and Norrie Disease.

Deaf-blind population estimates from the NCDB also suggest that, in the United States, over 10,000 children (ages birth to 22 years) and over 40,000 adults are deaf-blind. According to data from Sense International India, over 500,000 children and adults live with this multi-sensory disability in India.

In just these two countries, thousands of people are living in darkness and silence. Without proper care, training, and education, deaf-blind individuals are substantially isolated. Sadly, the extent of their knowledge of the world exists only within their fingertips, in what they can touch and feel.

Despite that, many people who have support from family, friends, teachers, and medical professionals can learn to function and communicate.

Making the World a Brighter Place

Smartphone apps have made life easier for people all over the world in many ways. For example, users can lock the front door from anywhere, listen to audiobooks, pay bills, play music, and so much more.

Now, Good Vibes is making the world a brighter place for members of the deaf-blind community.

Available to download from the Galaxy Store, Good Vibes allows a deaf-blind person to communicate with anyone. To send a message, a user can tap it out on their smartphone screen in Morse code.

With this system, all of the letters in the English alphabet are combinations of dots and dashes. A short tap stands for a dot, and a long press is a dash. Tapping them in a sequence forms letters and words.

Similarly, the deaf-blind individual can understand an incoming message by feeling vibrations. A short vibration is a dot while a long vibration is a dash.

Furthermore, the two-way interface allows people who can see and hear to type or speak a message to a deaf-blind recipient. The app’s standard chat/voice interface converts the sender’s message to Morse code vibrations for the receiver to decode.

For visually and hearing-impaired users, making this kind of connection is life-changing. Most importantly, it allows deaf-blind people to express themselves in a way that might have otherwise been impossible.

In the company’s poignant promo video, a deaf-blind girl named Diya leaves home to go to school. She goes to classes, plays sports, and broadens her life. However, she gets homesick. She uses the Good Vibes app to tell her mom that she misses her. For the first time, she can understand her mom’s instant “Diya, I love you” reply. Watching their shared tears of joy in “talking” to each other is incredibly moving.

Making a Remarkable Impact

With just a few short taps, a world of possibility opens for people like Diya. They can finally say what they want and express their thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, communicating with others allows deaf-blind individuals to feel and experience life in a deeper, more fulfilling way.

Overall, in using technology to break down barriers, enrich lives, and bring loved ones closer together like this, Samsung’s Good Vibes app is making a remarkable impact.