Pebbles Assistive Technology
Uses of Hand-Helds as Assistive Technologies for People
Keywords: Assistive Technologies, Personal Digital Assistants
(PDAs), Hand-held computers, Muscular Dystrophy, Handicapped, Disabled, Disabilities.
We are looking at how handheld devices, such as Personal Digital Assistants
(PDAs) like PalmOS devices and PocketPCs, can be helpful for people with physical
disabilities. This research is currently progressing along two tracks:
- We are studying the use of a PDA as an alternative input device for computers
- We are looking at how to automatically create remote controls for everyday
appliances that will be usable by people with disabilities.
We believe that by using commercial, off-the-shelf hardware and adapting software
which also has significant mainstream usefulness, we can provide increased benefits
at low cost to people with disabilities.
Disability Related Problems
People with Muscular Dystrophy (MD) and certain other muscular and nervous
system disorders such as Cerebral Palsy (CP) may lose their gross motor control
while retaining fine motor control. The result is that they may have difficulty
operating a mouse and keyboard. However, they can often still use their fingers
to control a pencil or stylus, and thus can use a handheld computer such as
Hand-Helds as Alternative Input Devices
In our first track of research, we have developed two programs, called RemoteCommander
and Shortcutter, that allow
the handheld to substitute for the mouse and keyboard of a PC. RemoteCommander
allows all keyboard and mouse functions to be performed using the PDA, and includes
support for word completion and word prediction. Shortcutter allows custom panels
of controls to be created, to make it easier to perform specific common or difficult
functions in specific applications. Our tests with a variety of children and
adults show that this software can be very useful for some people.
Hand-Helds as Universal Controllers
As our second track, we are creating a "Personal
Universal Controller" (PUC) that allows graphical and speech user interfaces
to be automatically created as remote controls for everyday appliances. Research
is progressing in three areas: how to create high-quality graphical user interfaces
from a high-level specification that will take into account user preferences,
how to create speech interfaces automatically for appliances (this work is being
performed by the Universal Speech
Interfaces group), and how to connect our interfaces to real appliances.
A PUC will enable people who have visual and physical disabilities to have access
to a wider range of functions on a wider range of appliances. We are coordinating
with the InterNational
Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) Standards Development
Committee on Information Technology Access Interfaces (V2) to help with
the Alternative Interface Access Protocol (AIAP) which has similar goals to
You can download EdgeWrite text entry software from http://depts.washington.edu/ewrite/
under the "Download Software" section.
You can download the standard Pebbles distribution, which has all the standard
Pebbles applications, including RemoteCommander and Shortcutter. See the standard
For the Palm, we have a special
download for the software for people with disabilities, that has the latest
(undocumented and only partially tested) versions. This might be better for
people with disabilities. This download also includes two testing programs useful
for measuring the speed and accuracy of typing and selecting objects.
Changes in this version since the official V5 release:
- Ability to hit hotsync while in RemoteCommander, and have the PC automatically
switch to hotsync and return to PebblesPC.
- Word prediction in RemoteCommander! To use the new word prediction mechanism,
you will need to load RmtCmdWords.pdb from the Palm directory onto your Palm.
Note this big file takes a long time to load--maybe 1/2 hour! So just be patient.
Then go to the Options/Preferences screen on the Palm and choose the Word
- If you load both RmtCmdWords.pdb and RmtCmdWordsBk.pdb into the Palm (which
will take twice as long!), then the option to reset the Palm's database of
word predictions will be available. We will use this to make comparison measurements
of speed and prediction accuracy.
- The PC side of Remote Commander can log all the keystrokes for analysis.
In PebblesPC, hit Plugins..., then select RemoteControl and hit Preferences.
Sorry, there is no documentation yet for the special download or its programs.