Where are the future accessible solutions going to come from? There are several universities in the United States with development programs focusing on the complexities of accessible challenges and innovations. Students at the University of Washington have already created a cloud-based screen reader and a method for compressing high quality video to phones for sign language discussions. Their Capstone class is developing a series of accessible tools based on the Android phone platform.
The Phone Wand, developed by Levi Lindsey, Chris Raastad, and Michael Lam, gives blind users the ability to find an address while walking down a street. The phone uses vibration feedback, similar to an electronic stud finder, to let the user know when they are pointed in the correct direction and approaching the destination.
Tap Beats is an addictive game, similar to Simon Says, that plays a series of drum sounds for the player to duplicate. The phone screen is divided in quadrants to represent buttons. The game also features a jam session mode for composing and sharing music with friends. The project is being developed by Joy Kim and Jonathon Ricaurte.
Sound Detector, by Patrick Sweeney-Easter and Brad Medick, detects specific sounds from the ambient noise and alerts the user. This tool would alert a deaf person that a police car is approaching, the fire alarm is sounding, or even a new message has arrived in Yahoo! Messenger. The application allows a user to record specific sounds for personalizing the alerts. It also allows sharing sounds to discover what something is, for instance a bird call.
Pic to Speech is an application that provides a cheaper and simpler communication tool. Dedicated communication tools with custom hardware can be expensive. Similar applications for the iPhone and iPad have made communication much easier. Glenda Watson is using Proloquo2Go to conduct interviews: My Next iPad Experiment: Using Proloquo2Go to Conduct Interviews.
Pic to Speech, by Alison Wilbur, Katherine Tung, and Junebae Kye has a high level of sophistication. It allows users to easily customize the images, interface layout, and the audio translation of the images. The custom sounds are saved to the phones SD card to avoid losing the personalization if the phone is damaged.
Other projects under development include an application to read street signs, find nearby friends and using gestures for sounds.
Yahoo! HackU at the University of Washington
The University of Washington is hosting a Yahoo! Hack University event this week. There will be an award for the best accessibility hack. We’ve already seen the Huskies produce innovative accessible tools. Let’s see what they can generate during a 24 hour hacking period.
- Cognitive Accessibility Online
- One-Off Solutions
- User Interface Software and Technology 2010 Conference Report