How to Get Innovation from Limitation


These product developers opened their minds by shutting down their most reliable senses.


Although technology is presumably intended to make life easier,  many new applications and devices are targeted for a more advanced user – or at least one with all of the standard senses intact. So what happens when product developers decide to create solutions for those with sensory or functional limitations?

MyVoice CEO Alex Levy and co-creator Aakash Sahney made it their mission to think outside-the-box and come up with a way to make typing and speaking on touch-based devices a reality for users who suffer from Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury and Parkinson’s. It took an incredible amount of creativity and innovation even for two tech-savvy professionals to produce something that they themselves could not naturally begin to relate to.

The pair eventually came up with two coordinating applications called TalkRocket Go and RocketKeys. Their first product, TalkRocket Go, lets operators use pre-recorded words and phrases to help them communicate effectively with others. Users can also snap a picture to go along with the word or phrase to help build vocabulary. GPS capabilities have made it possible to program some of your favorite locations, for example, the movie theater, where users can set up phrases to buy tickets or popcorn, or order a favorite drink  at the coffee shop. TalkRocket Go will even give users an array of coffee order choices if they arrive at a new shop. The app also has the potential to capture phrases used in a job interview or at the post office.

While TalkRocket Go was succeeding in helping users communicate, many people still sought access to more in-depth conversations. That’s where RocketKeys came in. The app focuses on assistive keyboards that allow users to create their own interface with customizable key size. By gathering and analyzing the data from ten million tweets, Sahney and Levy created the latest technology in sentence prediction that actually applies to common cultural topics and expressions. In addition, the app makes it possible for people who have unsteady hands to type accurately on touch devices. In other words, they can use as many fingers as they’d like to hit just one key. They can even use the palm of their hand or a clenched fist.

Applications like TalkRocket Go and RocketKeys suggest that thinking out-of-the-box sometimes means putting yourself inside a box, adopting and experiencing the circumstances – including limitations – of your particular market. Innovation is about imagination and inspiration. Two attributes held in high esteem at the most forward-thinking companies and workplaces.