Mailbox Questions: May-June 2016
Tablets: iPad or Android?
I’ve decided to buy a tablet computer, but I’m confused about which one to get. Some of my friends have iPads while others have Androids. Which would be better? On my Windows computer I use a finger splint, Dragon speech recognition and a trackball. Can I use these on a tablet?
Each of the tablets has strengths and weaknesses. While the iPad has heaps of built-in accessibility features, its limitation is in the area of pointing devices – there is no cursor and no USB port, so you can’t plug in a trackball or joystick and use them the way you would on a computer. Android devices do have a cursor and a USB port, so if using a trackball is important for you, then an Android might be a better choice.
However, you should also include Windows tablets in your consideration. A Windows tablet would provide complete continuity with your existing software and devices, and would enable you to use Dragon speech recognition in full – iPads and Androids only have cameo versions of speech recognition.
I have heard about using the mind to control home appliances. Is this available yet? How does it work?
This is certainly the next frontier in assistive technology. We have recently been testing a product called Brainfingers, which has a headband, amplifier and software. The headband responds to surface electrical signals generated from muscle, eye movement, and brainwave activity detected at the forehead. The headband connects to the amplifier which filters, amplifies and digitizes the forehead signal.
The Brainfingers software further amplifies the forehead signal and decodes the signal into eleven frequency bands of information, responding to eye movement, brain waves (theta, alpha and beta) and muscle movement. The eleven bands can be used in combination or individually to produce virtual controls, for mouse movement and clicks. Our trial was not extensive, but sufficient to appreciate the enormous potential of technology such as this. Very exciting!
Simple phone options - phone options on an iPad?
I am looking for a simple phone system for a friend with a brain injury. They use an iPad – could that be used to make phone calls?
Several options are available for landline phones and mobiles. The Oricom Care80 has six programmable buttons that can be labelled with pictures of people. This means your friend just has to touch the picture of the person in order to dial their number. Regarding mobile phones, there are several apps on iPhone and Android platforms that also support picture dialling. Alternatively, there are mobile phones that can be customised with a limited number of buttons, such as the KISA Phone. The advantage of the Care80 and the KISA phone is that they are dedicated to their purpose – your friend won’t have to navigate their way through an operating system and other apps in order to make a phone call.
An iPad could be used to make calls, either by linking it to an iPhone through Apple’s “Continuity” feature, or by setting up an account with Skype or similar. But the iPad could be unwieldy for phone calls, and your friend would still have to turn on the iPad and navigate to the phone app in order to make and receive calls.
Viewing a Tablet on a Large Screen
I like the idea of a tablet computer, but much of the time I would prefer to use a big screen, especially for watching movies. I find tablet screens very small, although I enjoy their portability. What are the best options for linking a tablet computer to a bigger screen?
If your tablet has an HDMI port or, as in the case of an iPad, an HDMI adapter available, then an HDMI cable will connect the image of your tablet onto a larger monitor or a television. Another option is to link the device wirelessly to a television, either through an AppleTV or Google ChromeCast. Some modern “smart TVs” (which link to your WiFi network) can throw some content from your tablet to the screen (for example, YouTube videos), but that might be too specific and limited for your purposes.