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An almost free Braille display

| tags: blind, ideas, enabling technology

For $25 we can buy a little USB device that has 6 audio outputs. They intend them as front/back, left/right, and center/bass; this is called 5.1 audio. They provide three standard 3.5mm headphone jacks for plugging in the speakers.

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Graphs for blind students

| tags: blind, ideas, enabling technology

The most frequent request I get from teachers of the visually impaired is help with graphs. Graphs are a part of the curriculum that blind kids don’t get. I contend that simply displaying the graph with touch or sound is not the answer. What is? Could we (semi)automatically extract key points from a graph and convey that information to a student?

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Temporal computer interfaces

| tags: ideas, enabling technology

Computer interfaces are mostly sequential. Consider telephone menu systems: enter 1 for parts, enter 2 for service, etc. As another example, when you kill an unresponsive program, Windows XP pops up a dialog asking me if you want to send an error report to MS. You must respond to it before proceeding. An alternative user interface strategy (for both sighted and blind) depends on asynchronous alerts and user responses. Think of the underlining of misspelled words in many editors; it occurs sometime after typing and can be corrected (or not) anytime. Emacspeak has some nice features like this. The presence of a footnote associated with a word is indicated by a audible signal played along with the speech for the word without stopping. The listener can respond to the signal by requesting the footnote be followed or ignore it. A project investigating what is known about asynchronous user interfaces and perhaps a prototype implementation would be really interesting and likely result in a paper.

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Games for kids with cognitive impairments

| tags: ideas, enabling technology

Most video games are too hard for kids with cognitive difficulties. About the only approach currently available is to use things like “Game Genie” to “cheat”. We’d like an interesting and visually attractive computer game that emphasizes memory and has variable levels of difficulty. This will require an imaginative team willing to do some experimentation and willing to work with potential game players to get ideas. Of course, there are many kinds of impairment and one game will certainly not work for everyone. Our goal will be to make a game that is fun for one or two kids and see if it appeals to a larger audience.

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Web-cam CCTV

| tags: blind, ideas, enabling technology

People with impaired vision often use CCTV devices to enlarge printed text. How well could we simulate this with a cheap web cam, a milk crate, a strip light, and some software?

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