Assistive Technology

Developed at Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne (FPFL), a mind-controlled telepresence system aims to give some independence to people with paralysis or mobility disabilities.

Nineteen people tested the robot with a hundred percent success rate. Nine people with disabilities and 10 people without disabilities piloted a robot with their thoughts for several weeks. The testers wore an electrode-studded hat, which analyzed their brain signals and transmitted their instruction via the internet in real time to the robot. The robot was located in a lab in Switzerland. 

Mente is a portable EEG device which helps relax the minds of children with autism.  It has been designed by Malta-based AAT research and launched at a convention, which took place in Rome this month.

AAT research founder, CEO and scientist Adrian Attard Trevisan conceived of this device, which uses neuro-feedback technology too sooth children with autism, enabling them to obtain better focus and engage positively with the world.  It is designed for safe home use.

Read the Malta Independent article

The 90-day license for the popular screen reader JAWS now includes MAGic Screen Magnification Software. When a timed licenses is purchased for JAWS the Magic 90-day license will be made available for download as well.  The 90 day period starts when the first product is authorized for use. Both JAWS and MAGic will use the same authorization.  

JAWS and MAGic can be purchased immediately from a freedom scientific representative.  For more information please visit the Freedom scientific website

The fourth annual Awards for Advancement in Accessibility recognize innovation and achievement in communications technology that benefits people with disabilities. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced the winners:

  • Blind Square won in the category of Augmented Reality with an iOS app that helps blind travelers navigate routes, discover points of interest and network with friends with mutual interests.
  • Google’s no CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA won in the category of CAPTCHA Alternatives and eliminates the need for users to type characters or content of audio clips into a box. The new service provides website security through a risk analysis of the user’s behavior.
  • Convo Lights won in the category of Internet of Things with a VRS application that leverages recent advancements in consumer lighting technology to enable users to customize visual and incoming call notifications to trigger multiple colors, locations and types of lighting in the user’s home and office.
  • Beam Messenger won in the category of Real-Time Text with and app that allows users to communicate seamlessly with text messages on mobile devises. Instead of the traditional turn-based texting this real-time method allows user to come in at any point in the conversation without waiting for the other person to send.
  • AT&T Video Meeting with BlueJeans won in the category of Teleconferencing with a video conferencing solution that extend video collaboration to smartphone, tablet and laptop users and supports a range of mobile clients and platforms, which includes iOS and Android. The service now supports more customers including those with disabilities.
  • Comcast’s Talking Guide won in the category of Video Description with Voice Guidance on the X1 Entertainment Operating System that “speaks” the on-screen user interface allowing users who are blind or visually impaired to navigate the system.
  • OpenAIR, by Knowbility won in the miscellaneous category for their Accessible Internet Rally (AIR) competition that encourages developers to learn about web accessibility and build a prototype website for a nonprofit organization.

Here are the answers and explanations to last week’s GAAD Accessibility quiz.

Q. Who benefits from accessible content?

A. Everyone

Browser extensions and accessibility settings are great for people who wish to further customize their experience to fit their individual preferences when accessing websites but these are not a replacement for adhering to accessibility guidelines.

Students at Birmingham City University are developing a smart cane with facial recognition and GPS that will enable people who are blind to identify friends and family. The ‘XploR’ mobility cane uses smart phone technology to recognize familiar faces from as far away as 10 meters.

The ICT students who are developing the cane: Steve Adigbo, Waheed Rafiq and Richard Howlett have already presented it to medical and science professionals in Luxembourg and France. They plan to visit organizations in Germany later this year.

FUJITSU’s software LiveTalk, a participatory communications tool for people with hearing disabilities, is now on sale to companies and schools in Japan.

Live Talk helps people with hearing disabilities participate and share information in meetings with multiple people. The software recognizes speech and converts in to text, which is then displayed on multiple PC screens.

LiveTalk boasts the following features:

  • Converts speech into text with speech-recognition technology and real-time display of speech with wireless LAN transmissions
    • Enables text-based communication, as speech is converted into text and displayed on PC screens in real time with speech recognition using handheld and headset mics.
    • If multiple people speak at once the text conversion is processed in parallel and displayed simultaneously.
    • Mistakes corrected on the PC.
    • Text is transmitted in real time to PCs and tablets connected to a wireless LAN router.
  • Provides for a variety of modes of expression, such as the transmission of stamps or fixed expressions in real time
    • In addition to keyboard input, through the input of easily understandable emoticon stamps and preregistered, frequently used, fixed phrases anyone can comment quickly.

A vest that allows people who are deaf to feel sounds and understand speech is being developed by Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine. David Eagleman, neuroscientist and best-selling author is leading students in refining the vest which has several embedded actuators that vibrate in patterns that represent words. The vest pares with a smart phone that pick out speech from the amount sounds in the environment.

Eagleman’s Versatile Extra-Sensory Transducer (VEST) was the subject of his March TED Talk.

Palestinian students at the Polytechnic University in Hebron have developed a smart vest for people who are blind. The vest uses a ground sensor to detect obstacles and voice and vibration cues to navigate the user through them.

It is hoped that the vest can be an alternative to a cane and help people who are blind gain more independence. The vest still needs more development and financial support.

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