Assistive Technology

Ben Heck, modder and host of Element 14’s The Ben Heck Show, is creating a single-handed accessibility mod for use with the Xbox One’s controller.

In Episode 113: Ben Heck’s Xbox One Teardown Episode, Mr. Heck showed a clip of the accessible Guitar he built in Episodes 105 and 106 and teases his next episode, in which he will build the accessible controller. The controller modifications will include:

  • A spiked thumb-stick, which will help discern direction.
  • A left trigger and gamepad on the backface.

More detail will be revealed on this Friday’s live episode.

According to Game Spot, Mr. Heck will donate the controller mod to the Able Gamers Foundation.

A new fully accessible app created for the android operating system called Text Detective reads text from a page out loud. By pointing the phone’s camera at text the user can hear it read aloud as well as edit, copy and paste the text into documents, emails or other apps. The Detective works best with clean and crisp text and can help a user read mail, menus, cards, product packages, medication labels and other print.

The app, which has great implications for individuals who are blind, was created by Blindsight and supported in part by SBIR grants from the National Institutes of Health. It is available for $1.99 on Google play.

The advanced writing and reading assistive technology for people with dyslexia and dysgraphia, Ghotit Real Writer & Reader, had just released their version 3 for Android 4. The new release targets tablets but works with smartphones as well. The company has more improvements planned for smartphones.

Unlike other vendors, Ghotit has ported the software in full. Therefore, the Android version has all the features of and works similar to the original Mac and Windows version and features Android sharing.  The new release requires Android version 4 with 1 GB of RAM or more.

An Israeli startup called Project Ray has developed the first smartphone specifically designed for users who are blind and visually impaired. Smartphones can overwhelm many visually impaired users. Typical touch screens don’t provide enough tactile clues to assist a user who is blind making it difficult for them to navigate menus.

Project Ray offers an interface that is very simple yet still robust. It is designed to make sense for people who are visually impaired. The screen displays five to twelve icons and allows users to simply move their finger to a specific direction to open apps.

More can be read at the Project Ray website.

Six designers from Asia University won one of the 2013 Red Dot Design Concept Awards for their Sign Language Ring design. The set of rings and a bracelet detects the motions of sign language and speaks the words being signed. Moreover, it translates spoken word to text promising to revolutionize communication between the deaf who use sign and hearing people who do not.

There are some in the deaf community skeptical about the extent of its usefulness and do not see it as a replacement for a live interpreter. However, there are circumstances when an interpreter is not available that the devise would offer convenience.

Guillaume Chastel, senior lecture in the American Sign Language Department at the University of Rochester in New York, said in an interview with ABC News, "We do use gestures or write notes ... [but] writing back and forth takes so long. If you're doing something basic and you can throw on these bracelets, that would be a good option."  

Read more on the new rings that read Sign Language out loud.

Did you know that blind people can surf the Internet and deaf people can enjoy videos? Have you wondered how people with disabilities use mobile devices? Assistive technology (AT) empowers people with disabilities, yet it presents challenges for producers of online content.

The OrCam uses a 5.1 mega-pixel camera module and low-power digital image processor to “read” signs, packaging and publications for people with vision disabilities. STMicroelectronics, a global semiconductor leader, created the small device that clips on to eyeglasses.

The wearer can point the OrCam at an object and the camera and processor will work together to analyze and interpret the scene and describe it to the user. It can read scenes or text in a variety of lighting conditions and surfaces, including newspapers and signs. The camera is pre-loaded with a library of objects and the wearer can teach the OrCam new objects while they use it. 

The Do Good Mission is one of eight Nokia Create contests that encourages the development of apps for Windows Phone 8 and Nokia Lumia devices. Highlighted on the Microsoft Accessibility Blog is the contest that calls for the creation of apps that will enhance the lives and mobile experience of people with vision related disabilities.

Early in 2014, Southwest Airlines will introduce closed captioning to its inflight wireless video entertainment. This will make the airline among the first to take this step toward a more inclusive experience for travelers with disabilities.  

Southwest manager inflight product development, Angela Vargo, told Runway Girl Network, on the sidelines of the APEX Technology Committee conference in Newport Beach, California., “We’re working with Major League Baseball Advanced Media, which delivers our TV and video to the aircraft and they have to implement [CC] on their end. They’ll do all our video, both live and cached.”

Read more about Closed Captioning on Southwest Airlines on the Runway Girl Network website.

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