Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kinect Driveable Lounge Chair

When Microsoft Kinect was launched last year, it was considered to be the revolutionary device that would bring a paradigm shift to the world of gaming (which, in my opinion, it did). Of course, the most touching Kinect related story is about a little boy with Autism who connected with Kinect. For Kyle, the traditional controller was always a barrier because he had to master various button combinations. But with the Kinect he could just jump around!

Surprisingly though, quite many people started hacking it to use it for purposes other than gaming (which is evident here). Most of the hacks are quite raw/not very refined/incomplete and what have you, but they do a fantastic job of showing what this technology is capable of doing. Perhaps with a little more R&D, funding etc., these hacks can become full fledged solutions for the masses in the future.

This post is about a similar hack that can be extremely beneficial to people with impaired mobility and/or underdeveloped motor skills.

Recently, at MIX11, Microsoft demoed a recliner that was powered by Kinect and a Windows laptop. The recliner has four motorized omni-directional wheels at the bottom, with each wheel having its own motor, and the movement of the wheels is determined by the hand movements of the person controlling the chair (and the Kinect).  The chair even reclines when the person brings his right hand to the bottom right (as seen in video).

Microsoft would be soon launching the Kinect SDK for PC which allows people to use the Kinect for similar (and not so similar) purposes using Kinect and Windows. Click here to know more about the SDK.

I read about this armchair at various sources, and everywhere the readers were discussing how this chair would make people lazy and fat. However, nobody seemed to discuss the benefits of this chair for people with limited mobility/ underdeveloped motor skills, etc. Does this chair not seem practical? Do people generally not think about people with disabilities? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Here is a short video of the "Kinect Driveable Lounge Chair" being explained.

To see the awesome omni-directional wheel in action (and to see the chair enter the stage) watch this video and skip to 07:09.

Source: Engadget, Ubergizmo, Channel 9

Monday, April 25, 2011

Eye Tracking Windows 7 Tablet (For Under $1,500)

If you read my last post about the Tobii PCEye and thought that $6,900 was too expensive for a eye tracking controller - there's some good news! Students at Brigham Young University have developed a new Windows 7 based tablet with a built in eye controller for under $1,500. Although it is called a tablet, images posted on the original post by Brigham Young University show that it has a stand, thus making it look like a desktop PC.

The tablet has a touch screen, and  is 2 inches thick, 10 inches long and 14 inches wide. The eye controller requires a quick calibration, and once that's done, it is ready to go. All it takes is a blink to click on something.

I looked around for a video demonstration but could not really find one. I will update this post as soon as I find a video.

picture of a user in front of the tablet

This project was developed by engineering students for their yearlong capstone project. Click the source link to read more about this project.

Source: Brigham Young University via Engadget

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tobii PCEye - Hands Free Eye Controller for PC

Tobii PCEye is an eye controlling device that lets Windows users control their PC using just their eyes. This is good news for people who have limited motor skills, spinal injuries,  and neurological disorders, and are looking for alternative methods for controlling a mouse. The PCEye is a USB device that just requires a simple connection, and within a few seconds of calibration, is good to go. It can successfully track 95%  of users regardless of eye/ pupil color, glasses, contact lenses, lighting conditions, and head movement.

The PCEye is only available for Windows. It works with any computer that has a 1 Ghz dual core processor or higher, 2 GB of RAM, 60 MB of video RAM, and Pixel Shader 2.0 and above . It can connect to any monitor that is 15" - 22" in size. PCEye has its own processor which means that it does not make your computer slow.

PCEye is available for $6,900.

Tobii, a company based in Sweden, offers PCEye in all regions around the world and provides funding and financing options as well.

I found this video on youtube that shows a demo of Tobii's eye tracking technology.

Source: Tobii via Engadget

Saturday, April 9, 2011

ZoomReader - Speech to Text App for iPhone/iOS

Ai Squared has created a new app for the iPhone and iPod Touch (soon iPad 2) that not only zooms text for visually impaired people but also reads the text back to them.

So what's so special about this app? It sounds like just another text to speech app, doesn't it?

ZoomReader is meant not only for text in documents but pretty much any text - even on boxes, bottles, or any object you can think of that has some text on it. The concept behind the app is very simple - The user takes a picture of the text on an object/ document with their iPhone camera. The app then converts the picture digitally into text using OCR, and reads the text out loud to the user. The app automatically focusses the camera before taking a picture. However, the user can manually focus the camera too by tapping the screen in the center. The app also does a digital zoom on the object so that users could just read enlarged text without going through the OCR process.

Ai Squared claims that this app can have 98% accuracy if the phone is used with a "clamp stand" so that the camera does not shake while taking pictures (perhaps like this one?).

This app is available in the iTunes App Store for $19.99 for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and will soon be available for the iPad 2 (this app is compatible with iOS 4.2+ only). There is no news on when Android users would get this app.

Please watch this video to see ZoomReader in action.

Source: WSJ Blog