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Hi-Tech Typing

PITTSBURGH (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- It seems like everyone has one a cell phone, personal computer or I-pod, but what if you couldn't use these devices. What if a car crash, stroke or accident made it nearly impossible for you to use small computers? Now, a new device is making life easier for disabled Americans.

After a car accident left Bob Milan paralyzed, maneuvering a wheelchair is easy but using a computer is a challenge. "I don't have much dexterity in my fingers, so it's difficult to use a keyboard," he says.

As pocket-sized computers become more popular, people with disabilities need other ways to strike tiny keyboard letters. Now, a new system called EdgeWrite makes typing easier for them. Milan says, "I don't feel like I have a disability when I'm using it."

Invented by computer science student Jake Wobbrock, EdgeWrite is a typing method that uses edges of a square template to guide a PDA pen tool or computer-trackball to form letters. Jake Wobbrock, Ph.D., a human-computer interaction research student at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, says, "The edges of the square provide stability. This is proven good for people with tremor and other motor impairments."

This is how it works: Milan places the trackball curser inside the square on the screen. Then, moving the curser toward the corners inside the box, in a specific way, forms letters. This is the letter "A" ... This is a letter "B." The result is a faster, easier way for people with disabilities to master small keyboards.

Brad Myers, Ph.D., a computer scientist from Carnegie Mellon, says, "The whole point is to try and make it much more accurate to do text entry, which of course is a key requirement for any kind of use of computers." The guided system has literally replaced Milan's traditional keyboard. All he needs now is in the palm of his hand.

EdgeWrite also works with a joystick on a power wheelchair or with a touch pad on a desktop computer. It is also helpful for people with motor impairments such as Parkinson's disease or cerebral palsy who have difficulty holding a pen tool steady on a Palm Pilot.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

Prof. Brad A. Myers
Human Computer Interaction Institute
School of Computer Science
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3891




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