Technology can be a wondrous thing. Advances in software and hardware are allowing a level of interactivity never before thought possible, actively enhancing the lives of some who, for whatever reason, experience reduced mobility. And video game technology is making those improvements increasingly accessable.
Twelve years ago, Chad Ruble’s mother Lindy suffered a stroke, which lead to a persistent condition known as aphasia – a disorder which affects a person’s language processes. Many sufferers experience difficulty with reading and writing – a result which left Lindy unable to recognise text. What this meant for Lindy was that she was unable to use a keyboard, which is a difficult hurdle in an increasingly textual and digital world.
Chad, who has an interest in technology and the communications revolution, was looking for a way to “bridge the digital ‘keyboard gap'” for people like his mother. What he found was the Kinect.
Chad walks through the process on his blog. Step one was designing a “visual ‘dashboard'” for simple messages. It used a series of (symbols like emoticons) to represent specific emotions, which were then able to be qualified (intensified or lessened) by an amount. Some clever use of the SimpleOpenNI library for processing and gesture recognition code allowed for the generation and sending of very simple messages.
Chad recognises that there are still some problems to overcome. He plans to add more variety to what can be sent, while maintaining “a super simple interface”. There are also a few issues with selection, with Lindy accidently changing the message too often. At this stage, Lindy must also rely on someone else launching the program. Chad is considering Kinect camera support, which would allow users to take photos to attach to emails.
But to Chad – and Lindy – the simple satisfaction of being able to send an email is to be savoured. “[It’s] clear”, Chad writes, “that mom is happy with the result.”
The smile on Lindy’s face when using the device for the first time clearly backs up Chad’s statement.