|Volume 7, Issue 1 -
SYRACUSE DEVELOPS COMPUTER INTERFACES FOR DISABLED USERS
Researchers from the Northeast Parallel Architectures Center (NPAC) at Syracuse University and the Institute for Interventional Informatics (I3) in San Diego are linking novel interfaces to the World Wide Web so that physically disabled users will be able to navigate through Web- based material. Led by medical neuroscientist Dave Warner of I3, the PULSAR (Power Users Languaging Synergy Against Reality) Project is enabling people who previously had no satisfactory method of using computers to create artwork, play music, control telerobots, communicate, and work electronically.
PULSAR makes computer interaction possible through facial expressions, for example. The user wears a headpiece equipped with sensors that transmit myoelectric (muscle-induced) signals to an electronic interface pack connected to the serial port of a PC. The computer further processes the input into meaningful commands via software called NeatTools. NeatTools is a visual programming language that creates programs for data collection, gesture recognition, control of external devices, virtual world control, and perceptual modulation. It was initially developed by Warner and Joe Johannsen of I3, and is now being extended at NPAC. Some of the functionality is ported from a mature DOS- based program called Neat Software, also developed by Warner and Johannsen.
The PULSAR group includes physics professor and NPAC Faculty Associate Edward Lipson, I3 scientist Solamo Martin, NPAC Summer 1996 Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) students Anna Berlin, Adrian Blanatovich, Rahul Panesar, and Shital Shah; NPAC graduate students Jiangang Guo and Myeong-Jin Lee; and Eyal Sherman, a 15-year-old boy from Syracuse who is quadriplegic. Undergraduate students who have recently joined the project include Mark Bechtold, Matthew Carbone, Tracy Martellotta, Theresa Tangredi, Ed Wagner, and Phil Watt. The group has developed and refined PULSAR so that Sherman, who is also unable to speak, can now produce music, operate a remote-controlled car, type text, and play computer games like Pac-Man and Tetris using facial expressions and a PC provided by NPAC.
Future efforts will focus on developing more sophisticated signal processing, making the head gear and sensors quicker to connect and less obtrusive, and producing a wider range of capabilities for the user, including mouse-cursor control, Web navigation, rapid typing, and speech generation from typed text. This is in accordance with the project's ultimate goal to create new educational, recreational, and employment opportunities for disabled people through computers and the Internet.
The PULSAR project will be demonstrated at the CRPC booth at Supercomputing '96. For more information about the project, see http://old-npac.ucs.indiana.edu/projects/pulsar .
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