Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Here's yet another example of "thinking outside the box" when it comes to uses for the OLPC:

Census of India is responsible for generating data on population. Sources said the organisation is considering doing a pilot project where its field force would use these XO laptops and based on the success of the pilot look at whether these could be used for collecting information for the Census 2011.

They looked at this ruggedized, moisture-proof, low-power-consumption device with a screen that's readable in bright sunlight, and realized that it would be useful for its workers who have to go out on location to compile data.

I see things like this and it makes me think all the more that the XO is well-suited to be a take-along communication device for a deaf-blind user. I can envision it doing the job of the silicon keyboard and PDA in this image, which I took during the AADB convention in 2006:

In this image, one of the men from HumanWare, the company that developed the BrailleNote that my deaf-blind friend is using, shows the PDA display to a newspaper reporter (left). The sighted, hearing person would type on the silicon, roll-up keyboard that's plugged into the back of the BrailleNote. What they type will come up on the PDA screen, as well as on the BrailleNote's braille display for the deaf-blind person to read. Then the deaf-blind person can type a response, which will appear on the PDA screen, as the PDA is wirelessly connected to the BrailleNote.

Now imagine if an XO were to be set up with a wireless or wired connection to the BrailleNote or similar device (as there are some other companies offering competing braille note-taking devices). It would be easier to read the XO screen than any PDA screen, and easier to set up just anywhere instead of needing a tabletop. The two conversing parties could set the devices up on their respective laps, if no table space is available.

Someone had to write the software to get the BrailleNote talking to the PDA. If that could be done, then software can be created to get a BrailleNote to talk to an XO. Sounds pretty darn straightforward to me, and as I posted before, I'd be glad to have a hand in developing whatever software doesn't already exist.

P.S. See the black case on the table? That's the BrailleNote that belongs to the hearing, blind gentleman on the right. (He also works for HumanWare.) Where my friend has a BrailleNote with a QWERTY keyboard, the man's BrailleNote is the model with a Braille Keyboard. Check it out here. The keyboards are different, but the "brains" inside the two machines are the same.

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