Professor Gadget

It is estimated that for every person killed on our roads, three are left with devastating brain, spinal, vision or sensory damage that leaves them largely incapacitated and in desperate need of technology that delivers from the comfort of their wheelchairs. Others, like Stephen Hawking, are locked into their chairs by disease, unable to even ask for a glass of water.
Recent innovations in Speech Generating Devices (SGD’s), have taken a giant leap forward and redefined the functionability of the physically disabled, enabling interaction with, and control over, environments both near and far.

The computer system attached to Professor Hawking’s wheelchair is operated via an infra-red ‘blink switch’ clipped onto his glasses. By scrunching his right cheek up, he is able to talk, compose speeches and research papers, browse the World Wide Web and write e-mails. Via a programmable infra- red remote control attached directly to this system he is able to operate TVs, video players and music centres. Its radio control opens doors and operates lights throughout his home and office.

But what is available in sunny South Africa?

ClaroRead Plus is a multi-sensory software solution that enables practically any text to be spoken aloud. You can scan any paper document and have it spoken back with complete clarity. Words can also be spoken back as they are typed, ensuring the accuracy of written papers, tests, and study notes. ClaroRead can be customised to individual needs and abilities, by students or tutors. Price: R3 540-00 excluding VAT.

SmartNav 4 is the total hands-free mouse alternative for people with ALS, spinal cord injuries such as quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy, and other special needs. With a range of up to 2 meters SmartNav comes with everything you need to control your computer using only your head motion, the ideal solution for Assistive Technology applications. You can left click, double click, drag, right click, and more. It was designed to complement the natural head motion you already perform when looking around. Moving your head as little as one centimetre maneuvers the cursor across the entire screen and you can type using the onscreen virtual keyboard program.

A tiny, paper-thin tiny reflective dot is fixed to any part of your body you’d like to control the cursor with. Placing the dot on a hat or communication headset are the current favorites. The SmartNAV usually sits on top of the monitor, facing the user but it can also be clipped to laptops or even placed behind you as long as it can see the reflective dot.

It has a 30 degree Field Of View (FOV), and usually sits about half a metre away from your head leaving you pleanty of room in which to move that one centimetre. Cursor speed and movement is all adjustable in the software settings. Clicks can be made via definable hotkeys on your keyboard, you can plug a switch into the SmartNAV device, or you can use Dwell Clicking Software.

With the Dwell Clicking software, you can click just by hovering the cursor in one spot for a small (and adjustable) amount of time. Click Switches can also be added, via a Cable, that simulate a real mouse. There is also a footswitch, which has two buttons built in. Price: R5 872 excluding VAT.

Grid 2 is an all-in-one package for communication and access. The Grid 2 allows people with limited or unclear speech to use a computer as a voice output communication aid, using symbols or text to build sentences. You can also access your Windows desktop and other programs, with the built in Computer Control features. In addition to this, you can send and receive email and sms messages, browse the web, listen to music, control your environment... and more too!

Grid 2 accepts input from switches, head-pointer, touch-screen, mouse, and other options too. Chat Symbols are useful for people with poor or no literacy skills, as well as helping those with limited literacy to develop a larger vocabulary.

Price: R6 984-00 excluding VAT

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