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Alternative and Augmentative Communication
This article will show you how to transform your laptop into the ultimate alternative and augmentative communication device. This project requires a webcam and two downloads: Camera Mouse, which uses the webcam to track your eyes, and OptiKey, an optical keyboard that can be used to spell out words and phrases.
Alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) used express thoughts, wants, needs, and ideas. People with sever speech or language disabilites rely on AAC to supplement existing speech or to replace speech that is non functional. This article shows you how to set up your laptop to take advantage of two free programs, an optical keyboard and a webcam-based eye tracker.
Please note that this project may only work on Windows-based laptops.
OptiKey is an assistive on-screen keyboard which runs on Windows. It can be used with Camera Mouse to assist with keyboard and mouse control for those living with motor and speech limitations. OptiKey is ready to use out of the box, and if there is no eye tracking device/software available, OptiKey can also be used with a mouse.
Camera Mouse, developed at Boston College to help people with disabilities to use computers, works in conjunction with the laptop's webcam to control the cursor simply by moving your eye across the screen. This program is available free on their website. Camera Mouse is designed to help people who do not have reliable over their hands, but may be able to move their head. People with Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Multiple Sclerosis, Traumatic Brain Injury, Motor Neuron Disease (MND) and various neurological disorders benefit from this free download.
Putting It All Together
Begin by downloading and installing both, the Camera Mouse and OptiKey software. Run the Camera Mouse program first. Click on either left or right eye and wait a few seconds for the webcam to begin tracking your eye. Neck start the OptiKey program, which will lock to the top of your screen, pushing any additional windows to the bottom half of the screen.
I have included the alpha-version of an alternative and augmentative communication website I have been developing. This GUI-driven website allows users with vocal or motor disabilities to effecively communicate by navigating between categories and selecting words and phrases that reflect the user's needs and wants. Install and run the Camera Mouse program before using the Alternative Augmented Communication site linked below. Make sure that the OptiKey virtual keyboard is turned off.