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Free Software Helps Disabled Use Mouse

Roblimo posted more than 3 years ago | from the everybody-needs-a-hand-sometimes dept.

Software 46

An anonymous reader writes "A University of Washington team has developed a piece of free software to help those with motor control problems do what most of us take for granted every day: use a computer mouse to get stuff done. The Pointing Magnifier combines an area cursor with visual and motor magnification, reducing need for fine, precise pointing. The UW team is actively seeking user feedback."

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Cool (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35772284)

That's great, I'm sure they will have much to contribute now that they can harness the awesome power of the mouse and not just the obsolete keyboard. Really, who still uses keyboards?

Re:Cool (2)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772304)

I would have responded more quickly... but it took me about 3 minutes to track down the words I could copy and paste to form this.

Re:Cool (3, Informative)

arose (644256) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772476)

Right tool [cam.ac.uk] , right job, etc.

Re:Cool (4, Insightful)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772306)

If you lost both mouse and keyboard for 48 hours, I bet you'd beg to be given your mouse back. (even if you couldn't have your keyboard)

Give them a break. It's a start.

Re:Cool (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35772550)

Well then maybe you simply aren't fit to be using computers then.
You're pathetic.
Cower before me more you feeb.

Wouldn't a pad be easier? (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772600)

But wouldn't the easier thing to use be something more along the lines of a pad? those genius pads are dirt cheap, variable sensitivity, and with software calibration should be easier to control I'd think than trying to wield a mouse if you have trouble with fine motor movements.

I know it wasn't originally designed for it, but then neither is a mouse, hence the software. but it just seems to me a pad would be easier all around to tweak especially considering that even the cheapo pad has custom control buttons running down both sides.

yo (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35772302)

yo

Well you know what, motor control tards? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35772308)

CLIs are better than GUIs, I heard it on Slashdot. Apparently you don't even need a mouse to get work done.

Re:Well you know what, motor control tards? (4, Funny)

fivevoltforest (2012744) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772322)

Really intuitive too, I set my grandfather up with a unix command line and he was browsing the web with Lynx and authoring documents with Emacs in no time!

Re:Well you know what, motor control tards? (5, Insightful)

pitterpatter (1397479) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772362)

Some of us with motor control problems can no longer use a keyboard. My fingers won't lift and separate enough to hit individual keys any more. I can still use a terminal, but it has to be in a GUI interface so I can use an on-screen keyboard.

Re:Well you know what, motor control tards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35772392)

I see you've read an anti-troll article or two.
What on-screen keyboard software do you use?

Re:Well you know what, motor control tards? (2)

pitterpatter (1397479) | more than 3 years ago | (#35774944)

Onboard for a keyboard. Dasher to write this.

Re:Well you know what, motor control tards? (1)

drwhite (456200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35778174)

May I suggest xvkbd for onscreen keyboard. I can no longer type but can manipulate the touchpad. I am waiting for linux/kde guys to deveLop an onscreen keyboard that has word completion functionality like Windows 7 onscreen keyboard.

Re:Well you know what, motor control tards? (1)

pitterpatter (1397479) | more than 3 years ago | (#35778652)

xvkbd version 2.1 and later support word completion, which may make it easier to enter long words with xvkbd.

Thanks for pointing me to it.

Re:Well you know what, motor control tards? (1)

Phoghat (1288088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35779604)

Never heard of this before but I installed it, not because I'm disabled, but because it saves me time sometimes. Word completion, keyboard config, re-sizing etc.

Cool research, but I see a worrisome trend (5, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772318)

This work is funded by Microsoft Research, Intel Research, and the National Science Foundation. If it leads to breakthroughs that are available to all individuals, no matter what computing platform they choose - great! But I've seen other public+private funded research end up owned and locked up by start-ups driven by the faculty doing the research. These end up benefiting the faculty member financially, they benefit the private companies who've invested, and they can be a windfall for the university - but the general public gets no benefit unless they buy into the commercial product. This bothers me, given that a good chunk of the work was done on the public dime (or, more accurately, on the public hundreds of thousands of dollars).

Research at publicly funded universities should be at least partially owned by the tax-paying public. It's not like these researchers are starving - full professors in engineering are making on the order of 20K a month, whether they're bringing in grants or not.

Re:Cool research, but I see a worrisome trend (2)

Fourier404 (1129107) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772428)

A person capable of being a full university professor could be making literally millions in the private sector. The less you pay, the lower the overall quality of our universities as more students chose industry over academia.

Re:Cool research, but I see a worrisome trend (2)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772782)

A person capable of being a full university professor could be making literally millions in the private sector.

Possible, but unlikely. Professors tend to have a psychological make-up which is at odds with the private sector mentality. Very few well paid industry positions offer the freedom to do or think that universities offer.

As a case in point: one might imagine that full physics or mathematics professors are in high demand in the banking sector, but one would be wrong. The right kind of employees are those who studied long enough to earn PhDs and postdocs, but not long enough to teach and direct their own research programs. Million dollar bonuses go to those who can take orders, and work to deadlines.

Re:Cool research, but I see a worrisome trend (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35773874)

I reject the notion that someone who would choose more money over educating people is a better educator. Of course, you should pay people enough to be comfortable... pretty sick of teachers getting paid like crap. There's lots of people in higher education that are probably overpaid... but all the most egregious offenses are in administration and if we're going to take money away from anyone in education that's the place to start.

Re:Cool research, but I see a worrisome trend (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35779416)

that's bullshit. you obviously haven't met people who qualify as a full university professor since 2000. the new definition is this: couldn't make it in the private sector.

even if you're of the type who wants to educate, there's now better avenues for it. for example, if you know a field very well you could target everyone on internet as the audience for the teachings. however most profs nowadays want to even limit their students from sharing the information they were given for the course, because the prof copied it off the net or because the material couldn't pass mustard and would hurt their reputation too much(ever downloaded a course material as a protected pdf? material that had no reason to be protected).

This is not a worrisome trend (2)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772544)

Calm down. There is no chance that this will be locked away. If you look at the project pages linked in the article, you can see that they have both been released under the New BSD licence. And at the bottom of the Angle Mouse project page, it states:

This work was supported in part by Microsoft Research, Intel Labs, and the National Science Foundation under grants IIS-0811063 and IIS-0812590. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this work are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of any supporter.

So there you go, the project is still owned by the authors and not the companies that provided support.

Re:This is not a worrisome trend (1)

NoAkai (2036200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772768)

Now correct me if I'm wrong here, I'm not too updated on all this license business, but wouldn't it theoretically be possible to close the software under the BSD license, as it's not copyleft?

Re:This is not a worrisome trend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35772904)

It would be possible to lock the software under BSD, it is also possible under GPL. The difference is that in GPL it is only the copyright holder who can do it.

However, a locked software from BSD and GPL licenses will only be locked from that particular version. Any older version will still be freely available and modifiable.

Re:This is not a worrisome trend (2)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772908)

If you go grab the source code now then there is nothing that they can do to prevent you from redistributing it after they close it. The BSD licence means that anyone can take that code, use it in their own closed source project and not have to make the code available to anyone.

Re:This is not a worrisome trend (1)

macslas'hole (1173441) | more than 3 years ago | (#35774056)

It is not possible for anyone other than the original authors to change the license on the original source code, and even they can't change it for those who have already licensed it under the current terms. However, the BSD license does not required that changes to source code be licensed under the same conditions as the original source code.

Re:This is not a worrisome trend (1)

arkenian (1560563) | more than 3 years ago | (#35774152)

It is not possible for anyone other than the original authors to change the license on the original source code, and even they can't change it for those who have already licensed it under the current terms. However, the BSD license does not required that changes to source code be licensed under the same conditions as the original source code.

Nor does the GPL, provided the original authors are the ones who make the changes.

Re:This is not a worrisome trend (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775558)

Calm down. There is no chance that this will be locked away. If you look at the project pages linked in the article, you can see that they have both been released under the New BSD licence.

I had read the article but missed that - thank you.

With regard to the broader picture, though, (excepting this project obviously) I stand by my statement. I work at a university and have seen this sort of stuff first-hand. I commend these researchers for not following that model.

Re:Cool research, but I see a worrisome trend (2)

gnomeplanet (2037950) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772758)

Maybe I am understanding this incorrectly, but it seems that most of this research is published publically and the papers are available on the author websites. Are they allowed to file patents for published work? Is there a delay between when they can file a patent and when they can publish the work? I would be interested if any person with legal knowledge here could comment...

Re:Cool research, but I see a worrisome trend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35776854)

I've seen other public+private funded research end up owned and locked up by start-ups driven by the faculty doing the research. These end up benefiting the faculty member financially, they benefit the private companies who've invested, and they can be a windfall for the university - but the general public gets no benefit unless they buy into the commercial product.

This is an artifact of the Bayh-Dole Act [wikipedia.org] , which was specifically created to get universities to do something other than just publish a paper and move on to the next project. (Anyone who has ever tried to replicate bleeding edge work from a paper knows publishing is not equivalent to open source.) Universities responded as desired and started taking tech transfer seriously. However, each has a unique idea of what "tech transfer" means. Some universities are very aggressive and push their researchers into licensing deals, etc. Others are more enlightened and have official mechanisms for open source. The ideal case is when a university mixes flexibility and a good judge of potential. This allows solid business take off and grow into serious job creators without wasting everyone's time on ideas with less market potential.

It's not like these researchers are starving - full professors in engineering are making on the order of 20K a month, whether they're bringing in grants or not.

Where do you work? I've been at a lot of universities and know that the very few in the 240K/yr range usually have significant research operations and are insanely busy. It is possible the 20K you're quoting is for a 9-month appointment and their summer salary must be earned through their own fundraising. Even that's pretty high for someone sitting idle. In fact, the guaranteed 9-month salary is rapidly eroding. Most tenure track faculty I know get less than that.

Re:Cool research, but I see a worrisome trend (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35779398)

it seems like they skipped some previous work on it though, funded by the same companies. you should understand that 80%(pulled it out of my s) of this kind of research is done pretty much as an employment program for unemployed researchers.

windows has a lot of accessibility stuff, but you need to be intelligent to use it. but what really matters is that the tech get's some airtime, if it's any good, since there's so much accessibility stuff out already, half the academia is just "working" on that, trying to invent the new default desktop. the ideas are simple to copy nowadays too, so what matters is seeing it. the market is so small(compared to market for non-disabled) that patent litigation doesn't hit it really, too.

thing is, even before internet had rolled out in big time there were people who were fully disabled except their heads and they were already online(and for them it was a big deal.. a very big deal, so that's why people had already figured out methods to it, if there is a will there is a way, however these academics are doing it as a career and a j.o.b, it's not like they got other funding..).

what the disabled should be worried about is things like phone operating systems getting so closed that blind use software is harder to write(symbian had such in 2004 or so already.).

Free Software Helps Disabled Use Mouse (3, Funny)

tsa (15680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772334)

And here I was, thinking that Free software helps a disabled mouse that was used as a test animal.

Re:Free Software Helps Disabled Use Mouse (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772566)

I'm sure the mouse would prefer to be taught how to build a ratapult.

Should be doable in Compiz (1)

ndogg (158021) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772348)

There's already the Zoom [compiz.org] plugin. I would imagine that someone should be able to modify it to perform a similar operation.

A link, and a summary. (1)

SheeEttin (899897) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772386)

Here is the project page.

And for those who don't want to do the digging to actually find out what the heck this thing does:
It implements a two-stage clicking process. Click once, a little "zoom bubble" pops up around the cursor, with a magnified version of what's underneath. Then, you make corrections to the pointer position (if necessary) and click again.

It's interesting, to be sure, but I wonder if a continuous-zoom mode is feasible.

Re:A link, and a summary. (4, Informative)

SheeEttin (899897) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772394)

Herp derp. Here [washington.edu] is the project page. (It's 3 AM, what do you want from me.)

Re:A link, and a summary. (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772572)

Useless for dragging then... How about putting one of those extra buttons on some mice to use? Hold it down for zoom-and-precise mode, and return to normal upon release.

Re:A link, and a summary. (2)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772652)

Extra buttons. For someone with motor control problems.

Grand idea.

Re:A link, and a summary. (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772858)

A button is either in, or it's not. That sounds somewhat easier than precise positioning of a cursor.

My mouse has two buttons on the left-hand side. They work as forward and back buttons when browsing. If you made them into one button (No hardware alteration required) they would be very easy to press.

Free Software only? (2)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772608)

The subject isn't very clear, but.. well, my point is that why are these things always presented in a manner that it is somehow the software being open-source which enables stuff like this? After all, there's lots of closed-source development going in the medical area too and they've just as well helped hundreds if not thousands of people. Basically, what does the license have to do with the fact that it enabled a disabled person to do something? To me it just sounds like trying to spin this as somehow a superior achievement from open-source, not accomplishable with closed-source, while diminishing the real point in all this: the disabled person.

Seen it before (3, Interesting)

pbjones (315127) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772612)

there may be something that I missed about this one, but I'm sure that I have seen the same or similar years ago. Might be already patented, time will tell.

there is a much simpler solution, TABindex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35773060)

its what http://pvoice.org/ [pvoice.org] does

Re:Seen it before (1)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 3 years ago | (#35776606)

It was implemented for the US Navy in an early EDMICS prototype back in the mid-80s. Slightly different purpose (looking at a few-hundred DPI images of E-size ((36x48 in.)) engineering drawings on Sun 3/50 ((1152x900 pix.)) workstations), but the same feature.

University of Washington+Microsoft Research combo? (1)

gnomeplanet (2037950) | more than 3 years ago | (#35772728)

There seems to have been a lot of UW and MSR collaboration in research lately. I remember reading earlier about their information retrieval lab collaborating with MSR, and their AI lab working with MSR. Now this seems like an HCI lab working with MSR. I guess this shows it definitely helps to build your computer science department close to a big software company.

I could have used this when I had a sprained wrist (3, Interesting)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 3 years ago | (#35773120)

Lack of fine motor control isn't totally limited to the elderly and the disabled. As a healthy thirty year old, I had issues using a mouse with my wrist splint on last month. Something like this would have probably been perfect.

My motor skills are ok, but this is still awesome (1)

AngryNick (891056) | more than 3 years ago | (#35773540)

This will be handy when tweaking images at the pixel level or navigating a huge document that's been zoomed out to 25%.

Choice Is Good (1)

Wintermute2_0 (166842) | more than 3 years ago | (#35774832)

It's an interesting concept and more interface options for people with disabilities is always a good thing. I'll probably stick with my head-controlled mouse and piezoelectric switch until I get that chip implanted to control my computer with my brain. And then I'll pwn all your sorry asses in Crysis 11.
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