Say Watt? A Talking Multimeter?

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After a request from one of his friends, [Mastro Gippo] managed to put together a talking multimeter to be used by blind persons working in electronics. He wanted a feature-rich meter that had serial output, and recalling this Hackaday article from a few years back led him to find a DT-4000ZC on eBay, which has serial output on a 3.5mm jack. (Though, he actually recommends this knockoff version which comes with excellent documentation).

It turns out there aren’t many talking meter options available other than this expensive one and a couple of discontinued alternatives. [Mastro Gippo] needed to start from scratch with the voice synthesizer, which proved to be as easy as recording a bunch of numbers and packing them onto an SD card to be read by an Arduino running the SimpleSDAudio library.

He found a small, battery-powered external speaker used for rocking out with music on cell phones and hooked it up to the build, stuffing all the electronics into an aluminum case. Stick around after the jump for a quick video of the finished product!

Continue reading “Say Watt? A Talking Multimeter?”

Hacking Digital Scales for the Disabled

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[Jan] works with both physically and mentally disabled individuals, some of whom cannot read, making many of their tasks more difficult. Although [Jan] is not in a position to teach reading or writing skills, he was able to build an add-on device for the scales used in repackaging sweets to provide simple feedback that the user can interpret.

The device has three LEDs—red, green, and yellow—to indicate the package does not weigh enough (red), weighs too much (yellow), or lies within an acceptable range (green). The industrial scales at [Jan’s] workplace each have a serial output to connect to a printer, which he used to send data to the device. An ATMega8 controls the lights and an attached LCD, with the usual trimpot to change the display’s contrast and a rotary encoder to adjust the device’s settings. Everything fits snugly into a custom-made frosted acrylic enclosure, laser-cut at a local hackerspace.

[Jan] provides a rigorous guide to approaching each step on his Instructables page, along with source code and several pictures. See a video overview below, then enjoy another scale hack: building one from scratch.

Continue reading “Hacking Digital Scales for the Disabled”

[Ricky’s] rugged DVD player

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[Ricky] absolutely loves watching DVDs. He is epileptic and is cognitively functioning at a level roughly that of a 6 year old.  His younger brother [Ronnie] noticed that [Ricky’s] DVDs as well as his DVD player never lasted very long due to some rough handling. [Ronnie] stepped up to make [Ricky’s] life just a little bit easier by building this super rugged DVD watching station.

He started by ripping out the front pcb of the DVD player that has all the buttons. [Ricky] can wear through a set of standard buttons in no time, so [Ronnie] extended these to arcade buttons. Then he mounted everything into a custom cabinet that can withstand a considerable amount of abuse.

Now they can load 5 disks in and [Ricky] can watch what he pleases without worry of destroying the player.

[Ronnie] mentioned that he’d like to make a more complex control system using some kind of microcontroller, but frankly I find the simplicity of this to be perfect. Maybe a media pc loaded with movies might be a decent next step. You can see [Ronnie’s] build log here.

If you’ve ever considered making something like this to improve someone’s life, you should check out thecontrollerproject.com where people with special needs can connect with people who can build interfaces.

The PixBoard

Many hacks are, of course, interesting in their own right. Hacks like this one, however, fulfill a much greater purpose by helping people overcome their disabilities. The PixBoard is “an illuminated board adapted for disabled people, especially for people with cerebral palsy, giving them access to games using shift technology.”

This device was developed for a girl that has cerebral palsy and can’t control her arms or legs effectively. In order to interact with the world more effectively to play board games and the like, this system was developed. The PixBoard scans an 8×8 matrix of LEDs allowing her to select the piece to be moved and where to move it. This is done using only simple buttons and the processor’s timer.

The system is controlled using an Arduino, so anyone is free to create their own games for this system depending on the situation. The following video is in Spanish, but shows this device in action around 1:20. Continue reading “The PixBoard”

Man spends 30 years helping disabled gamers

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Using our hands to manipulate game controllers is something most of us take for granted. However for quadriplegics, whose arms and legs are completely paralyzed, gaming becomes a nearly impossible task. One man has spent the last 30 years of his life trying to help quadriplegics once again “pick up” the controller and enjoy a few rounds of their favorite video games.

Retired aerospace engineer [Ken Yankelevitz] has been using his skills to create game controllers that can be easily used by disabled gamers, offering them for sale at cost. Starting with Atari joysticks in 1981, he has been perfecting his craft over the years, creating some 800 mouth-operated game controllers. As the systems and their controllers became more complex, so did [Ken’s] designs. His new Xbox and Playstation controllers use all manner of components, including sip-puff tubes and lip-activated buttons in order to allow users to access every single controller function.

Even as he approaches his 70th birthday, he is busy making controllers, though at a slower pace than he has in the past. He has said that he will continue making them for as long as he can, but at some point he will have to close up shop. This has disabled gamers worried that they may no longer have someone to turn to for custom controllers, though we hope someone steps in to fill the gap whenever that day comes.

Be sure to check out his site to take a look at his designs, what he has done for the disabled community is amazing.

Robotic mobility for the little ones

Researchers at the University of Delaware are helping disabled kids by designing robot transportation for them. Exploring one’s environment is an important part of early development. Disabilities that limit mobility can prevent young children from experiencing this. Typically children are not offered a powered wheelchair until they are five or six years old, but adding intelligent technologies, like those found in the UD1, makes this possible at a much younger age. Proximity sensors all around the drive unit of the robot add obstacle avoidance and ensure safety when used around other children. When confronted with an obstacle the UD1 will stop, or navigate around it. The unit is controlled by a joystick in front of the rider but it can also be overridden remotely by a teacher, parent, or caregiver.

[via Robot Gossip]

WiiMote accessibility modifications

[Catea] has put some considerable effort into making a wiimote more accessible to people with physical disabilities. He started by extending the buttons out to much larger versions mounted on a lap tray. This makes playing games much easier for those that are lacking the fine motor skills to hit the buttons on the wiimote. This alone is a pretty substantial improvement, but [Catea] wanted to do more.

Taking the whole idea further, [Catea] published a second instructible where he outlines the process of adding two Arduinos and  Xbee modulse to make the external buttons wireless.