Is your grandmother cool enough to use XBMC? Maybe it’s a testament to the functionality of the wildly popular home entertainment suite rather than the hipness of your elders. But indeed, [Brian’s] grandmother is an XBMC user who needed a controller with larger buttons to accommodate her. This is what he built. He sent us a set of photos and a description of the build, both of which you can see below. He was inspired to get in touch after reading about the custom controller which [Caleb] has been working on for [Thomas].
[Brian] didn’t get bogged down with electronics. He went with the simple, cheap, and popular solution of gutting a wireless keyboard. After tracing out the keys he needed he got rid of everything except the PCB. A wiring harness was crafted by soldering jumper wires to the PCB traces and terminating them with crimping slide connectors. The arcade buttons he used have terminals for the connectors which will make it simple to mate the electronics with the mechanics.
The enclosure is a little wooden hobby box. It originally had a lid with a mirror. [Brian] broke open the lid’s frame to replace it with a thin piece of plywood which hosts the buttons. Inside you’ll find a battery power source. These keyboards last a long time on one set of batteries so he just needs to remember to preemptively replace them from time to time. The finishing touch was to add decals so that granny can figure out what each button does.
Continue reading “An XBMC controller built for Grandma”
[Chris Young] has a physical disability that means he can’t use a mouse very well. He typically uses Dragon Naturally Speaking for moving his mouse using voice commands but has found that it lacks some features he needs and can crash at times.
His solution to this problem was to create a device that will translate IR signals from a simple remote into mouse actions and movements. He is using an Arduino micro for this task, and as you can see in the video it seems to have worked out well for him. He has code and schematics available on his site if you would like to recreate this yourself.
[Chris] has actually built several accessibility devices for himself and others. You should check out his blog for more, including his thoughts on the cost of commercial accessibility equipment vs DIY. If you think you would like to try making a device to help someone with a physical disability access a computer, hop on over to thecontrollerproject.com and join up on the forums.
[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.
Fans of the AMC show Breaking Bad will remember the Original Gangsta [Hector Salamanca]. When first introduced to the story he communicates by ringing a bell. But after being moved to a nursing home he communicates by spelling out messages with the assistance of a nurse who holds up a card with columns and rows of letters. This hack automates that task, trading the human assistant for a blink-based input system.
[Bob Stone] calls the project BlinkTalk. The user wears a Neurosky Mindwave Mobile headset. This measures brainwaves using EEG. He connects the headset to an mBed microcontroller using a BlueSMiRF Bluetooth board. The microcontroller processes the EEG data to establish when the user blinks their eyes.
The LCD screen first scrolls down each row of the displayed letters and numbers. When the appropriate row is highlighted a blink will start scrolling through the columns until a second blink selects the appropriate character. Once the message has been spelled out the “SAY!” menu item causes the Emic2 module to turn the text into speech.
If you think you could build something like this to help the disabled, you should check out thecontrollerproject.com where builders are connected with people in need.
Continue reading “Building a blink based input device”
Pinch-zoom is a godsend (and shouldn’t be patent-able) and although we mourn the loss of a physical keyboard on a lot of device we use a tablet nearly as often as we do a full computer. But the touch screen interface is not open to everyone. Those who lack full dexterity of their digits will find the interface frustrating at best or completely unusable at worst. A team of researchers from the Atlanta Pediatric Device Consortium came up with a way to control touch-screen tablets with a sensor array that mounts on your arm.
The project — called Access4Kids — looks not only to make tablet use possible, but to use it as a means of rehabilitation. The iPad seen above is running a custom app designed for use with the sensor sleeve. The interface is explained in the video after the break. Each sensor can serve as an individual button, but the hardware can also process sequential input from all three as a swipe in one direction or the other. If they can get the kids interested in the game it ends up being its own physical therapy coach by encouraging them to practice their upper body motor skills.
Continue reading “Sensor sleeve makes tablet use easier and benefitial for disabled children”
[Matt Oppenheim] wrote in to share his work with us. He has been modifying the interfaces of electronics for the visually impaired. It started off with cassette decks. As [Matt] points out, many people who are visually impaired use cassettes for their audio books and newspapers. [Matt] added some touch sensors to the buttons so that he could have something announce what each button was as the user felt them. This allowed them to quickly learn the layout of the device.
After finding that the simple interface on the cassette player was learned very quickly, thereby making his addition no longer needed, he decided to go after something a little more complex. [Matt] set out to modify a digital radio with many more buttons that are less touch friendly. As you can see in the video after the break, he was able to pull this off quite nicely.
Continue reading “Adding voice labels to real life objects for the visually impaired”
The team over at NerdKits recently put together a device aimed to help make the process of measuring things more accessible to those with disabilities. [Terry Garrett] is a Mechanical Engineering student, and as anyone who is in the field knows, it’s a discipline which requires taking tons of measurements. Since [Terry] cannot see he was often asking classmates to assist in measuring items during labs, but when he got a job at a nearby design studio, he knew he would have to find a way to take those measurements on his own.
[Humberto] wrote in to share how he and his team built a set of talking digital calipers to assist [Terry] in his daily tasks. They based the design off a previous project they worked on, getting digital readout data from a set of calipers. The DRO information is fed into an ATmega382p, which pieces together pre-recorded sound bites to announce the size of the object being measured.
As you can see in the video below, the system looks to work very well, and [Terry] is quite pleased with his new talking tool. We love seeing these sorts of hacks, because they truly make a difference in people’s lives – excellent job!
Continue reading “Talking digital calipers make engineering more accessible”