Sunday, December 02, 2007

Whew... Saturday was a tough day for Philly hockey. The Flyers lost to Dallas 4-1, the Phantoms lost to Lake Erie (Cleveland) 2-1, and the Flyers alumni lost to a visiting Russian team 7-1. Ouch. My normal pregame routine, such as it is, is to have a bagel for breakfast on game days. It normally works. (Then again, the Flyers and Phantoms are normally good teams. Ya think that might have something to do with it? Nah. It's me and my bagel for breakfast giving them all good luck. )

I guess some days, there just aren't enough bagels in the world to give the mojo a boost. It looks like Saturday was one of those days.

Anyway, here's some GOOD news: the OLPC project is starting to get more orders in from countries' education ministers. Excellent. I had a feeling that with the popularity of Give One, Get One, there'd be additional interest coming from official channels. After all, now it's not just a little unknown computer that's being offered for sale, at inexpensive prices, to third-world educational systems and nowhere else. Now it's a little computer that first-world countries' private citizens have been ordering (and therefore donating) like crazy. IMO, that casts the device in a whole different light, since it's not just "for developing countries" anymore. It's going to be in wider use than that.

I've been doing some homework on the accessibility issues with the OLPC computer. Some software, like a Text to (synthesized) Speech reader, is already in place. However, I haven't tracked down anything that tells me there's full-blown screen reader software out there. That makes the difference between a blind person's being able to have the machine read a document's contents aloud, or being able to have the machine tell them aloud what they've just typed, what program they've opened up, what menu item they're on, etc. I'm giving a bit of an inelegant description, mind you, but the long and short of it is that a screen reader tells a blind user what's going on while they're using the machine. The screen reader software is also able to send its info to a braille device. For examples of these, see my June 2006 blog archives for photos I took at the AADB (American Association of the Deaf-Blind) convention.

Besides the idea of getting the XO PC to work with a screen reader program and a braille device, I keep thinking of another way that a deaf-blind person might be able to use an XO to communicate. I remember my deaf-blind friend KC's setup that allowed her to communicate with the medical staff when she was in the hospital. It involved her BrailleNote, a roll-up silicon keyboard, and a Palm Tungsten. The keyboard was plugged into her BrailleNote, and the Palm device was set up to pair with the BrailleNote via bluetooth. Then she ran a program on the BrailleNote, that allowed whatever was typed on the silicon keyboard to show up on the Palm, so the sighted person could see what they were typing, and also to show up on the braille display so KC could read it. Then she could either type a response back (if she were communicating with someone deaf) and it would show on the Palm screen, or speak her response (to a hearing person). You can see most of the hardware I described in the June 2006 archive photo where I posted about the newspaper interview. (The Palm was acting up, and in fact the people who designed the software were going to have a look at it during the convention, so it might not be in the photograph I took. But the BrailleNote and the keyboard were used throughout the interview.)

As much as I liked seeing how this worked, it's still three separate pieces of equipment that need to be set up. I keep thinking, "What if the XO computer could be set up to serve the same function as KC's silicon keyboard and Palm device? It's made to wirelessly communicate; what if it can be convinced to talk to the BrailleNote? Would it be easier to haul around an XO and the BrailleNote, instead of a keyboard and a Palm and a BrailleNote? All I can say is, "Let me get my hands on the device, let me see what software is already out there, and let me run these thoughts by some blind and deaf-blind friends, and see what comes of it." Things could get Very Interesting around here if this proves to be a viable idea. And that's a Good Thing.

No comments: