Last week, orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard visited Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) and the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATiA) conference as well.These conferences were successful on two fronts: One, it is always great to connect with industry experts, and two, experience first hand the new adaptive technology improving the quality of life for persons with special needs.
As we made the rounds talking to several vendors and advocates, a popular question emerged from our conversations: Is orbiTouch a direct competitor with any other forms of assistive technology? Generally, the answer is no.
OrbiTouch Keyless Keyboard specializes as an input system which uses domes instead of keys to type and mouse. Since orbiTouch’s design is vastly different from most keyboards, it doesn’t directly compete with or replace other assistive tech methods. It’s quite the opposite in fact–orbiTouch can be used to enhance them. Here’s a couple of examples of adaptive technology and where orbiTouch fits in.
iPad and Touch Screens
Steve Jobs had a stroke of his ever-flowing genius when he invented the iPad. Not only is iPad one of the best selling gadgets on the market today, but its intuitive design has made impressive strides to help children and adults with special needs.
The iPad, and touch screen technology in general, is ideal for individuals with disabilities because it takes no training to gain proficiency. Tap, slide, and scroll your way to productivity. It’s as easy as playing Angry Birds (the lower levels at least).
OrbiTouch can be used in conjunction with tablets easily. Since orbiTouch uses a standard USB connection, computers and tablets understand it as a normal keyboard. Just plug and play.
One of the best things about tablets is their lighter weight and capability to be mobile. If you wanted to mount an iPad onto a wheelchair, for instance, you could also mount a wireless orbiTouch so the user could comfortably rest their hands while they type and mouse. The benefit of this is that the screen can be placed at the user’s eye level so they wouldn’t have to look down constantly or reach to touch the iPad.
Obviously, iPad is one of the most popular and ubiquitous devices today loved both by able-bodied and special needs individuals, and its applications are many, both for entertainment and productivity.
Voice recognition or speech to text is great hands-free way to operate a computer. Software, such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, works by converting spoken words into text. It’s cutting edge technology that has a lot of potential, and one day may eliminate the need for input devices entirely.
One aspect that can be challenging for voice recognition users, however, is the ability to edit the text the speech has converted. With orbiTouch, the user can go back through the document and edit the text as needed precisely where work needs to be done. Also, you could alternate between voice recognition software and orbiTouch depending on the noise level of your environment, using orbiTouch in quiet setting where speaking would inconvenience others, or the opposite, a loud environment that could interfere with the software’s ability to interpret speech.
Word prediction software
Word prediction or completion software, such as Prototype, can improve your typing speed with orbiTouch tremendously. Here’s how word prediction software works: As the user types, the software makes word suggestions without the user having to enter all of the characters.
This is great to use in conjunction with orbiTouch, particularly for a new user who is getting acquainted with the product. The average speed for a proficient orbiTouch user is about 38 words per minute, which isn’t bad, but the orbiTouch wasn’t really built for speed. It was built for comfort. Word prediction software can fill in the gaps if the user desires to type faster.
If there’s anything I learned from FETC and ATiA conferences, it’s this: There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to assistive technology. Everyone has to determine a plan that will work for them whether it is a single device or a combination. For more information on orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard, find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/orbitouch