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Vocal Joystick

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  • Vocal Joystick

    Your Health: Vocal Joystick
    Monday, Mar 17, 2008 - 11:54 AM

    For Americans with disabilities accessing the internet can be challenging. But a new computer software program is making new connections.
    A car accident left Rick Eldridge with a spinal cord injury. His hands and arms have limited use but his voice is fine, so he uses sound to control the cursor on his computer screen.
    New software called vocal joystick uses vowel sounds to dictate direction. Louder sounds move the cursor faster.
    "If you want the pointer to move you intonate your voice tone either higher or lower depending upon how fast or slow that you want the pointer to move," says Eldridge.
    It's faster than saying up or down, left or right. Users can play cards, surf the web and play video games because the sounds are universal.
    "Accessibility should be universal and this is true for individuals who have had spinal cord injuries or individuals who, who were born with some sort of motor impairments. This is also true for individuals who have war time injuries, people whose arms have been blown off during war. All of these folks would be basically ideal to use the vocal joystick," says Jeff Bilmes, an Electrical Engineer/Researcher at the University of Washington.
    Bilmes and doctoral student Jonathan Malkin are now working on new uses for the vocal joystick.
    "What we would like to do is use vocal joystick technology to control robotic devices. Real 3D physical robotic devices, so that individuals can manipulate real objects in the real world, not just computer screens," says Bilmes.
    While just a prototype now, researchers hope their robotic arm will advance some day to perform just like a hand.
    Researchers hope to release vocal joystick software by june. Users will need a microphone and computer with a standard sound card to be able to use it. The robotic arm is still in development.

    For information about the Vocal Joystick:
    For information about Assistive Technology: AbilityHub,
    The Alliance for Technology Access,
    Web Accessibility Initiative,

    For information about spinal cord injuries:
    The National Spinal Cord Injury Information Center,
    National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke,

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    4/6/97, car accident, C5.