Student Projects & Competition Entries

 
Page Turner Technology

Authors:  University of Malta, ICT Institute
Mentor: Prof. Ing. Saviour Zammit

Mechanical page turners are typically, table top devices meant to give people with mobility impairments who are unable to turn pages in a book, a way of doing this independently.

The page turner industry has sought two main approaches*. FITA’s research sought to replciate the features of the two different page turner types, exploring the strengths and weaknesses of each, whilst focusing on lowering production costs.

Different page turners work in a different way to achieve a similar outcome. Gewa Page Turners have been around for over 25 years and are a reliable favourite for many people. Gewa adopted a four step process which the user has to complete to turn one or more pages forwards or backwards. An experienced user is able to have complete control over whatever book they are reading, with very little error. What errors do occur are usually user correctable. The Gewa Page Turner manages a wide variety of media including looseleaf pages which have been stapled at the corner and a variety of book sizes as well as magazines. It is simple for a someone to put a book into the Gewa Page Turner and it has a wide range of controller options, including a 4 button controller, a joystick and a scanning controller.

There is very little maintenance required, although the rubber roller does need to be cleaned at regular intervals to ensure that the roller continues to be able to “grip” the pages. With the Gewa Page Turner the onus is on the end user to understand and control the four functions accurately to turn pages – and this may be too much of a cognitive or physical load for some users.

At the other end of the complexity spectrum, Flip Automatic Page Turners aim to make the page turning process much simpler with a one-step or two-step process. This is attractive to many people who have found the four step process of the Gewa too difficult, time consuming or physically demanding. The user has far less control over the page turning process, with the onus being upon the carer to align the book correctly to get the best outcome. Misalignment will result in lack of reliability, pages can be skipped or multiple pages being turned at once. In addition, with a thick book the Flip may require adjustments during reading to keep reliability of page turning at an acceptable level.

In 2005 FITA collaborated with the University of Malta, on the design and modelling of an inexpensive page turner.  The research goal was to prove the viability of inexpensive page turner technology, whilst understanding and expanding upon the technologies used by different products in this sector.  The resulting conclusion was that although an inexpensive page turner could be produced using easily sourced components, the level of reliability is directly related to the number and quality of components/functions incorporated into the device.

*GEWA and Flip information source:  Jane Farrall, AAC Support Services Manager / Speech Language Pathologist – Spectronics

ndVisual

Authors: Claude Debono, Ian Decesare, Kyle Grech, Christopher Magri
Mentor: Mr. Ranier Bonnici
Competition: Australia Imagine Cup 2012

The project was submitted under the theme entitled ‘Achieving Universal Primary Education for Everyone’.  It addresses the issue of accessibility for students with a visually impairment, easing the challenge of navigating new school or college premises. The flexible application gives the student added convenience by implementing a toolset which includes a planner and diary, email checker, timetable reader and an e-book/notes reader.

Addressing this challenge required the detailed analysis of basic aspects of everyday navigation. Aspects which we take for granted, example, opening doors or finding empty chairs, can be problematic for a blind person exploring an unknown/new environment. Developers did not base orientation on the knowledge of one’s fixed surroundings, but also on variables like people present in every day school life. Getting to identify one’s classmates and lecturers easily from a distance, facilitates making new acquaintances, increasing confidence and indipendence.  Thus developing object and face detection functionalities was one of the approaches adopted to tackling the difficulties listed earlier.

Although navigation systems for the visually impaired are commercially available, our research and meetings with FITA and other associations revealed that reasonably priced indoor navigational systems are typically grossly inaccurate. One could argue that guide dogs or learning assistants already address these difficulties, but our project is meant to compliment and support existing solutions and not totally replace existing ones.

In our solution we have combined a number of existing technologies into an application with various functionalities and commodities to the educational needs of a visually impaired student. Technologies such as Text to Speech, Speech to Text and Voice Commands have always been in development, and with the ever increasing need for mobility these have become important requirements for newly released devices such as Smartphone’s, Tablet PC’s and Notebooks.

Although our application is still under development, recent results are very encouraging and offered support in testing and developing this application further in order to increase its reliability and its use under different scenarios.

FITA PC Telephony System

Authors: Mr. Jader Pelligra
Mentor: FITA / MCAST

The ICT solution we sought through this project, enables users to make and receive standard phone calls by using their computer instead of a telephone hand set, which they may not be able to operate effectively.  The hardware we are using is branded Way2Call and costs around EUR200.  Since FITA owns the source code, work on this project will continue, as we experiment with alternative hardware platforms so as to provide FITA clients with a range of options.  Mr Pelligra who has now joined the MCAST University College, has donated the source code of the software to FITA and continues to support the project.  FITA ran successful accessibility assessments on  the software and included it among the ICT Pool solutions hosted at MITA in Gattard House.

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