Optimizing Screen Time To Heart Beats

Kids spend too much time in front of a screen these days. They also won’t get off my lawn, and music today is just a bunch of static. They don’t respect their elders, either. While kids today are terrible, we can fix that first problem — sitting in front of a screen all day. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Donovan] has created a device that optimizes screen time to reduce sensory overload. It’s the Optimote, the combination of a remote control and biofeedback.

The idea behind the Optimote is to actually to reduce stimulation when watching something on a screen. For many people, including people on the autism spectrum, watching TV or YouTube videos can often result in debilitating sensory overload. You can’t relax in this state, you can’t learn, and you certainly can’t get any entertainment value out of the glowing rectangle in front of your face.

The Optimote uses a pulse sensor, an Arduino, an incredible break-away cable that seems to be missing from any other wearable device like this, and a software stack that interacts with VLC. During periods of high pulse rate, the video skips to low-intensity footage. There’s a ‘calm’ mode that puts media volume and tempo in sync with heart rate. The ‘thrill’ mode plays an eerie scene looping with the Jaws theme.

So far, the prototype is a success, and [Donovan] is looking forward to large-scale user experience testing to determine how effective and enjoyable this technology can become.

Custom Media Player Helps Hacker’s Autistic Son

Getting to play with technology is often the only justification a hacker needs to work on a build. But when your build helps someone, especially your own special-needs kid, hacking becomes a lot more that playing. That’s what’s behind this media player customized for the builder’s autistic son.

People generally know that the symptoms of autism cover a broad range of behaviors and characteristics that center around socialization and communication. But a big component of autism spectrum disorders is that kids often show very restricted interests. While [Alain Mauer] doesn’t go into his son [Scott]’s symptoms, our guess is that this media player is a way to engage his interests. The build came about when [Alain] was unable to find a commercially available media player that was simple enough for his son to operate and sturdy enough to put up with some abuse. A Raspberry Pi came to the rescue, along with the help of some custom piezo control buttons, a colorful case, and Shin Chan. The interface allows [Scott] to scroll through a menu of cartoons and get a preview before the big show. [Scott] is all smiles in the video below, and we’ll bet [Alain] is too.

Pi-based media player builds are a dime a dozen on Hackaday, but one that helps kids with autism is pretty special. The fact that we’ve only featured a few projects aimed at autistics, like this 2015 Hackaday Prize entry, is surprising. Maybe you can come up with something like [Alain]’s build for the 2016 Hackaday Prize.

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Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: A Device For Autism and Pomodoros

[jens.andree] found that many people on the autism spectrum have problems perceiving time. This makes the simplest tasks at home or at school harder. To help solve this problem, he’s created the Timstock Slim for this year’s Hackaday Prize. It’s a timer with four buttons to count down 5, 10, 15, or 20 minutes, with a neat LED bar graph showing the remaining time.

The Timstock Slim is an extremely simple device – it’s just an ATTiny84, a few shift registers, some LEDs, resistors, buttons, and a coin cell battery clip. It also does exactly what it says on the tin; it counts out a few minutes at a time, while providing visual feedback in the form of a bunch of LEDs.

Interestingly, this device may be useful to more than just those with autism; the pomodoro technique of time management uses a similar device – a kitchen timer – to keep its adherents on track. With no modifications at all, [jens’] Timstock could be used for a slightly modified pomodoro technique, geared towards 5, 10, 15, or 20 minute increments.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: