Wearable Ear Computer

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.


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3D printing

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

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Brain Computing

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.


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HP Prime: Color Graphing Calculator

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  

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Emergency Preparations

Do you have plans for emergency situations? Many resources, helpful suggestions, and check lists are available on the internet, but we often neglect taking the time to plan how we can act for emergency situations such as Fire, Earthquake, Storms, etc. If you are or have an individual with special needs in your family, it is recommended that you have your own plans as well as discuss these plans with your family and others.

Here are some resources to get you started:

For people with children, children may enjoy playing the following games while they are learning.  Click the following:  Disaster Master Game or copy the following address to your browser. http://www.ready.gov/kids/games/data/dm-english/index.html

Disaster Master Game

Disaster Master Game

The image shows the Game selections from Level 1 through 8.  Level 1-Wildfire, Level 2-Tornado, Level 3, Hurricane/Blackout, Level 4-Home Fire, Level 5: Winter Storm/Extreme Cold, Level 6: Tsunami/Earthquake, Level 7: Thunderstorm/Lightning, and Level 8: The Hot Seat.

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Socially Speaking app – Social Skills Assessment

Penina Rybak, MA/CCC-SLP, TSHH, the designer of the “Socially Speaking” app, posted an article in the Closing Gap magazine about IPad use for  children diagnosed Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).  In the article, she reported that many special education teachers recognize the importance of visual supports for Autism. Many teachers have used therapeutic techniques and reputable programs such as PECS, TEACH, Social Stories, and Visual Strategies. However, there is a growing interest in finding evidence about how to work with ASD students using technology, particularly iOS apps. Some examples of apps that can be integrated into the classrooms are photo apps, flashcard apps, drawing apps, and social story apps, AAC apps, problem-solving apps, and multimedia apps. However, Ms. Rybak states that it is more beneficial to use of an IPad by customization to meet each child’s needs. The app, “Socially Speaking”, designed by Ms. Ryback is an assessment protocol containing two assessment checklists: social skills development and a lesson plan template.  This app can be used to determine the children’s IEP goals among team members and the lesson plans both for school/therapy and at home. (For more information, click here.)



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Many people use their smartphones to check time instead of wearing a wrist watch. However, you may start hearing about smartwatch.  Some of the smartwatches can accept calls, check e-mail, take pictures, calendars, and run some other apps. For example, Samsung Galaxy Gear will be sold from T-Mobile starting October 2.  The Gear links to your phone over Bluetooth and is acting more as an external display so you do not need to get your phone out every time it rings. The size seems to be a little bit bulky.  I am sure that we will see more design improvement near future. I would especially like to see some built-in accessibility features to navigate the watch though. If you want to do some comparisons, you can visit the following websites:If you want to do some comparisons, you can visit the following websites:

Samsung Galaxy Gear vs Sony Smartwatch 2

Qualcomm Toq vs Samsung Galaxy Gear

The Smartwatch Review


Posted in Assistive Technology, Wearable Computing | 3 Comments

Closed Captioning (e-captioning)

As new accessibility laws are in effect, meeting web accessibility requirements are becoming more challenging. Closed Captions (CC) help individuals with deaf or hard of hearing view videos and make it more accessible as captioning describes dialogue and audio cues such as music or sound effects. It is helpful even for persons with normal hearing when the audio cannot be heard due to noise (restaurants, public spaces, etc.)  or in quiet locations such as hospitals or a libraries.


Software from CPC allows you to create closed captions for the most popular web formats such as HTML5, YouTube, Flash, QuickTime, iTunes, and Windows Media, as well as convert existing closed captions into web formats. For example, MacCaption is the only software that enables the HD closed captioning functions of Final Cut Pro 7. You can modify and output both HD and SD closed captions to tape, file, disc, mobile devices, and the web.  It works for both Windows and Mac. So if you often create videos and film, consider adding captioning to be accessible for all audience (CRC MacCaption).

If you do not have the software, but you want to add captioning on a YouTube video you created, check out this video by BigNate84 (BigNate84 Howto).   You do not need the CPC software for this purpose.  How To Add Closed Captions To A YouTube Video

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Tar Heel Reader

Tar Heel Reader offers free, easy-to-read, and accessible books. These books area created by teachers and students. You can download these files and use them as slide shows in PowerPoint. These books can be speech enabled with the following voices  of a child, a woman, or a man’s voice or simply silent. The files can be accessed by touch screens, IntelliKeys and switches. You can also create your own book and publish it on this web site. The Tar Heel Reader can be used as a wonderfully engaging activity in the classroom.


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Digital Problem Solver (DPS) app

An Autistic child is an individual with unique needs. One example can be on how to cope with his or her feelings. The Social Express Inc. develops apps, which are designed to teach users how to think about and manage social situations. For example, the Digital Problem Solver (DPS) app (99 c) allows the user to identify how they are feeling by choosing from a selection of emotions (Bored, Happy, Surprised, Mad, Annoyed, Sad, Frustrated, Scared)   Once you identify your feeling, then you will be guided  to choose a coping strategy to help you control the situation. Strategies include: Take Five Deep Breaths, Take a Break to Calm Down, Remind Myself to Keep positive Thoughts In My Head (or learn how to control negative comments). If controlling the situation is more complex, the pictures can be personalized by adding text to label the feeling or the strategy.  You can also use your own photos and customize to your specific needs.


Additional product information from the Social Express Inc.

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