The FingerReader is a wearable prototype device that helps in reading printed text aloud. The device was in the news this spring, 2014. Dr. Pattie Maes and the researchers at the MIT Media laboratory designed the prototype by using 3D-printing technology. Users scan a text line with their finger and receive audio feedback of the printed words. The device also provides feedback such as start and end of line, new line, and other cues.
The FingerReader is not only a good tool for visually impaired persons that need help with accessing printed text, but also it can be an aid for early English readers and the elderly. MIT researchers think it can also be implemented to include language translation features. This would be helpful for travelers visiting different countries. When FingerReader becomes available to public, it will be a good finger-wearable device for these needs.
The FingerReader device reminds me of some other portable reading options. For example, various scanner reading pens, which users trace the text by the pen to get feedback. However, often the accuracy of the feedback relies on the user’s operation of the pen such as properly tracing the word or the text line. Mobile apps for scanning and reading are also available on the market, but the accuracy of feedback relies on positioning of the document, lighting, and holding the device with steady hands. I hope that the FingerReader device will be robust and able to offer ease of use with accurate output, and a pleasant audio text feedback (not so robotic) when it becomes available.
FingerReader (Fox News – July 2014)
LEAP Motion is known for their hand-tracking controller, which allows you to access and interact with your computer (PC or Mac) using your hands and fingers while running the LEAP Motion software. LEAP Motion recently introduced new hardware and software updates, which allow the controller to be used with a virtual reality(VR) headset (i.e. Oculus Rift). The cost of Motion’s controller is $79 USD and the mount is $20.
Gaming can be a great learning tool, but often a person with limited hand mobility has difficulties to access a joystick or buttons on the game controller. It looks like LEAP’s developers are planning to integrate Leap Motion controller into virtual reality experiences. Virtual reality creates an artificial world that consists of images and sounds created by a computer and is affected by the actions of a person who is experiencing it (Merriam Webster). LEAP Motion technology offers handicapped persons more options to access computers and expand their experience.
A virtual reality headset like Oculus Rift looks big and requires someone’s help to wear for persons with hand-mobility limitations, but it is exciting that they can play a game with their hand-gestures and have virtual reality experience. I hope that developers will create special software for handicapped applications (education and communication).
The video above is showing how the user will interact with the PC screen while using a Leap Motion controller and a VR headset.
Leap Motion Website
Leap Motion V2 Tracking developer Beta – demo
Leap Motion VR
Some individuals with disabilities can get around town with their manual wheelchairs, but often they have to rely on public transportation or a local van ride. These wheelchair users can really expand their daily activities by this Kenguru Car by being able to do their own errands. You can drive directly from a wheelchair via the rear-opening tailgate. It has a motorbike style handlebar, and a joystick style may be available in the future. Max. Speed 25 miles per hour and you can travel 30 miles on a single charge. It fits nearly anywhere, as it is 83.6 in long, 63 in wide and 60 in tall. Although it has been around for several years, the Kenguru was originally designed by a Hungarian company and a co-founder, Istvan Kissaroslaki. Later he started working with Stacy Zoern (She is also a wheelchair user), in Texas, USA. They made Kenguru car available in US. I do not know the cost as of today, but it was around $25,000 originally. I am hoping that government will provide funding to the people who can benefit from driving this car.
Video: Kenguru Yellow
This video is showing how to access and drive the Kenguru car.
Video: Interview with Stacy Zoen
More information about Kenguru car: http://www.kenguru.com/
Possible funding for accessible van? http://usodep.blogs.govdelivery.com/2012/11/07/funding-your-accessible-van-with-a-grant/
Many iPhone users, who are blind, have become accustomed to use voice over or Siri when they make or receive calls. However, these features may be difficult for children, seniors or those who have cognitive challenges. Braille phones are now available from a company called, OwnFone (https://www.myownfone.com), in UK. It costs about £40 to £70 ($70 to $110 in US dollars). Users can use either word or image buttons. The 3D-printed hardware provides raised text or braille. This phone is not a smartphone, but you can store phone numbers in the Cloud for future changes and adaptability. The phone can be useful for simple emergencies for cognitive or visually challenged users. I hope that 3-D printing technology will bring the manufacturing costs down further so that it will become more affordable to anyone that has a need for this type of phone when it becomes available internationally.
Web link: UK Inventor of OwnFone on the world’s first customizable mobile
Braille Phone – OwnFone
I often use Siri to locate some restaurants nearby when I visit different locations. However, I was always wondering if there is a better app for VoiceOver users.
The app called All Access offers the information about not only Food & Drink but also different categories such as Health & Services, Auto & Travel, Shopping, Scan codes, and more. So I tried this app using the VoiceOver. It is very easy to navigate. For example, from the Food/Drink button, when you select restaurants’ types (i.e. Asian, American, All Types, etc.) and select your choice of a restaurant, you can access the information from separate buttons such as the restaurant’s Menu, Maps, phone, specials, and hours, all of which can be read aloud. This is helpful for everyone because you sometimes cannot read the Menu easily from their website.
An example of using the Food & Drink selection (AllAccess App)
I also liked the organized design, which means that the app covers your different needs so it provides a quick access to what you need without looking for other apps on your phone. For example, the app came in handy when I needed to find a dentist list or using the scan code app while shopping. I may be using this app more often without bothering Siri on my iPhone. However, if you live in a remote area with limited cell phone or no Wi-Fi coverage, you will experience poor performance. It is free from Apple App store. Web link: AllAccess
HIMS (www.hims-inc.com) will start shipping E-bot and E-bot ADV this June 2014.
What is E-bot? E-bot and E-bot ADV are portable read, write, and various distance video magnifiers with OCR (ADV model exclusive). The E-bot supports iPad or Android tablet, PC or Mac. The device makes use of familiar touch-screen gesture controls on your tablet so you can connect your iPad or Android Tablet via dedicated wireless access point. You can also connect with Mac with USB 3.0 or PC via USB 2.0/3.0. It has automatic light adjustments and voice guides (i.e. adjustable Zoom levels by voice).
I have used a few OCR apps on iPad, but it is not always easy to hold the device steady while capturing an image. So I like the design allowing you to place a document on a desk to stabilize it and wirelessly connect to view or OCR the image.
I can imagine that teachers and students would like the features such as capturing the image on the screen, then listen to it read aloud or seeing what is on blackboards to help their classroom activities.
image: capturing an image through e-bot and viewing from an iPad
The product information on the HIMS website: E-bot / E-bot ADV HD
PATINS TV: March 18th, 2014: Episode_38
Jody Ranck (GIGAOM Research, July 2012) reported that advances in materials science, battery power, augmented reality and chip evaluation have made the possibilities for wearables grow rapidly. These “Wearables” are commuting devices that are always on, always accessible and easily worn on the body. The wearable computing devices generally offer features such as real-time information access, data input, local storages, and communication.
I posted articles about Google Glass and the Smart watch last year. Wearable computing (or wearables) has continued to evolve into a consumer technology. While searching for what is coming next, I came across a device called “Earclip-type Wearable PC”. The prototype devices are tested by researchers at the Hiroshima City University in Japan. It is a small computer (weighing in at 17 grams) that can be worn around the ear and can be controlled by facial expressions such as the blink of an eye, a raised eyebrow, a stuck-out tongue, a wiggle of the nose or by clenching your teeth. The user does not need to use either hand so this device can serve as “a third hand”, a real benefit for people with disabilities. This wireless device has Bluetooth capability to connect to your smartphone, GPS, compass, gyro-sensor, battery, barometer, speaker and microphone. It can be used as a hearing aid. A second version of the device may include a tracking feature to watch after an elderly family member. We may be able to see this device on the market later next year around Christmas 2015.
The special issue (3D Printer Buyer’s Guide) in the Make: magazine reported that the first patent for 3D printing was obtained by Charles Hull in 1986. The essence of 3D printing is that software can “slice” a 3D image into a stack of 2D layers, and this forms the basis of a 3D printer that builds an object by printing one layer on top of another.
With a price range for a decent 3D printers starting at $1500 with capabilities that come close to commercial / industrials systems, 3D printing is ready for the masses. 3D printers are still expensive (good ones cost over $2000), but using one may be just around the corner. And I mean literally, we may be able to try out a 3D printer at Fedex/Kinko’s, a 3D Design salon, or even being available for rent near future. Most importantly, 3D printing can provide variety of solutions for people with disabilities.
For example, Global Accessibility News (Feb 3, 2014) reported that a 3D printer can help people who are blind or low vision feel the world around them.
A video shows constructing four puzzle blocks with letters F, I, S, H on them imprinted in braille. This way a person with vision disabilities can put all the letters together, read the word ‘fish’, and feel the shape of the fish that the blocks form. (Article)
The University of Warwick in UK is helping its students with physical disabilities become their own product designers so they can 3D-print customized objects that help them in their daily living. (Article)
In the future, 3D printing could be used to build homes. 3D printer can build a house in 20 hours: Click here
Many studies have been done to allow patients to control prosthetics and other devices using computers by interfacing signals captured from nerves, muscles, or the brain. One example in an article posted in September 2010 in MIT Technology Review, the researchers introduced a robotic wheelchair that combined brain control with artificial intelligence to help people maneuver their wheelchairs using only their thoughts. Then an article posted in April 2013 talked about the researchers who are working on how people can control their thoughts to launch an application such as selecting a contact or a song from a playlist or control the power on a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. It is exciting to see the Brain-Computer interface technologies develop, and Assistive Technology groups have opportunities to expand possibilities for people with disabilities.
I recently purchased a scientific touchscreen calculator for my husband’s birthday. Without knowing too much about this calculator, I have become very interested in some of its features. This HP Prime calculator has an interactive, 3.5 inch multi-touch color display screen with the familiar HP keypad. You can change the font size and set for a custom color theme. While the calculator has 3 Font sizes to select from, I would like to see an even larger font size for persons with low vision. The calculator offers both Algebraic (typical calculator keystroke entry) and RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) mode for entry. It is easily switched between symbolic, graphical, and numerical table views. This calculator can help you learn math concepts with Dynamic Geometry, CAS (Computer Algebra System), Advanced Graphing, and spreadsheet applications. CAS is a software program that facilitates symbolic mathematics (i.e. it can solve the algebra or calculus for the student). However, the feature can be disabled for testing purposes. Additionally their HP Solve feature provides customization by storing equations and solving for variables. The calculator can have wireless connectivity by purchasing a wireless dongle connected to a PC’s USB port and Internet access. If you are a college student or professional who is not restricted to TI (Texas Instrument calculator), you may want to consider this calculator. I would like to see the HP developer will add speech output on this calculator.
YouTube video: HP Prime: Color Graphing Calculator