Ceiling-display augmented communication device

| tags: ideas, enabling technology

Many people are permanently or temporarily unable to speak. Examples include:

  • hospital patients who have a trachea tube or a broken jaw,
  • people who have had a stroke, or
  • people with CP, ALS, traumatic brain injury, etc.

It can be particularly stressful for a hospital patient who needs to participate in important health-care and quality-of-life decisions to be unable to communicate.

Devices have been available for many years to enable people to communicate without speech. These range from simple aids such as pointing to words or pictures on a message board and writing by hand to high-end systems with dynamic displays that produce synthetic or recorded voice messages when the user selects a word or symbol.

These devices are rarely available to people when they are lying down (e.g. hospital patients or anyone at night). They are hard to see, hold, and operate while prone.

We could combine a simple communication device with a display that projects onto the ceiling (like those clocks that display the time on the ceiling). In the simplest case it might display only “yes” and “no” and allow a user to select between them. Extension to multiple words, phrases, or even individual letters would be easy. Synthesized or pre-recorded speech and alert signals could be easily added.

This device is about the size of a clock radio and sits beside the bed. It has standard 1/8” mono plugs for connecting a variety of switches. The projector is normally off and is quiet when in operation. It displays single color, high-contrast text on the ceiling. In “scanning” mode it cycles among the choices until the user makes a selection with a single switch. In “step” mode the user has two switches, one to move among choices and another to select one. Upon selection an audible or visual display is generated for the communication partner.