A friend has written up a nice post surveying communication prosthetics and information theory. Check it out.

I have been told that devices for the severely disabled, like eye-trackers, are too unreliable and break down too often to be practical, especially when caregivers aren't computer literate. Problems like this seem to be simple a matter of engineering. I imagine that this disabled population could benefit greatly from a usable open-source implementation of a variety of augmentative communication devices, since many individuals cannot afford expensive custom built computer systems.


  1. This is a fascinating article. Very cool, very good work. I guess an EEG cap is more robust than an eye tracker, certainly there are fewer moving parts.

    Tech for the disabled is a fascinating topic. One thing that I've heard is that commercial devices are now reaching the point where they can replace special devices. For example, a dedicated text-to-speech device is on the order of $2000, while an iPad with consumer software is $400. Of course, insurance will pay for the dedicated box, and not the much more useful iPad.

    As smart devices become more omnipresent, interface design for the disabled will become an increasingly large problem. The plus side is that the same effect makes a hypothetical device for universally translating any one form of sensory input into another more and more feasible. Image if instead of a hearing aid, the deaf had a speech-to-text converter and a heads up display? Maybe the blind can navigate by sonar. And thought to action is of course the ultimate output.

  2. Those "dedicated" speech devices are literally just windows touch-pads. Almost as an afterthought, they locked down windows so they could only run the speech software and nothing else. Crazy, eh ? I wonder how much more of the taxpayer's money we're wasting by forcing disabled people to use inferior technology ?