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Software Input Devices Technology

Free Software Helps Disabled Use Mouse 46

Posted by Roblimo
from the everybody-needs-a-hand-sometimes dept.
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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Free Software Helps Disabled Use Mouse

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  • by Anonymous Coward

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

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @02:30AM (#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.

    • 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.
      • 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 employee

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        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.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        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

    • 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.

      • by NoAkai (2036200)
        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?
        • 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.

        • 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.
          • by arkenian (1560563)

            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.

      • 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.

    • 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...
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      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 t

  • by tsa (15680) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @02:34AM (#35772334) Homepage

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

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

  • 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.
  • 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 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pbjones (315127) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @04:21AM (#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.

    • by dltaylor (7510)

      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.

  • 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.
  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @08:03AM (#35773120) Journal
    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.
  • This will be handy when tweaking images at the pixel level or navigating a huge document that's been zoomed out to 25%.
  • 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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