Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Get a FREE Switchamajig EADL system

Happy Holidays!

Switchamajig IR and Insteon IRLinc Hiding in a Corner
My Switchamajig IR can learn commands to control Insteon lights and plugs, so I want to shoot a video showing how great it is to have control of so much of your world with an iPad.

If you're familiar with my videos, you know that my son Jackson typically stars in them. But for this video, I'd prefer to show an adult. If you want to be in the video, I'll meet with you to understand what will work best, install a basic system at your home, shoot the video, and leave the system behind.

I'm looking for teenagers, adults, and seniors who:
 - Live close to San Jose, California.
 - Are unable to access standard electrical switches, small appliances, and remote controls because of a motor impairment.
 - Own and are able to access an iPad, either directly or with scanning switches.
 - Are excited at the idea of controlling more of their daily lives with their iPad.
 - Are willing to sign a release that lets me use pictures and video of you and your home to market my products. In the video, I may need to explain something about your disability to show how my product helps you.

The Insteon Switch (Right) Fits Right In
Obviously I can only give away a couple of these systems, so I expect I'll have to turn people away. I apologize in advance if you're one of the people I have to turn down.

If you're interested, I need an email from you to freeir@paw-solutions.com. Please tell me how you meet the above criteria, and how great my video will be with you in it. Include a picture if you like, and I'll be in touch.

I feel like there should be some legal mumbo-jumbo associated with an offer like this. Since I'm not a lawyer, let's just say that nobody is entitled to anything as a result of my writing this post and that I alone will choose who I give free stuff to.

Oh, and I won't retain any personal information about you. Once I've got the video made, I'll delete the above email account along with everything I received for it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I'm willing to open-source my switch-scanning code

I got my switch scanning feature working. I went with making the button grow when it is selected.

While I was writing the code, I realized that there's nothing really special about this feature. Everyone who is supporting switch scanning has similar-looking code, and there's really no reason for us all to implement this feature separately. It would be better for all of us to pool our efforts and create a standard library that can drop into any app to support scanning easily.

If anyone else is interested, I'll go first. I'm willing to release the source code for my scanning code (and the associated test code, which is actually bigger) under a relaxed open-source license.

I believe github.com will host open-source code for free, so the only real work for me will be to sort out what license I need, write some (limited) documentation, and adjust the copyright lines in my source files.

I use several open-source libraries in the Switchamajig app, and they have made my life tremendously easier. It would be great to give something back, even something as simple as the scanner. I may also end up with a better app if others want to spend some of the time they save improving the scanner.

Please leave a comment if you'd like the code. If nobody's interested, there's no reason for me to spend the time sharing it. In case you're curious, here's what the interface looks like:


@protocol SJUIExternalSwitchScannerDelegate <NSObject>
- (void) SJUIExternalSwitchScannerItemWasSelected:(id)item;
- (void) SJUIExternalSwitchScannerItemWasActivated:(id)item;

@interface SJUIExternalSwitchScanner : NSObject <UITextFieldDelegate>
@property (nonatomic) id<SJUIExternalSwitchScannerDelegate> delegate;
@property NSNumber *autoScanInterval;
- (void) addButtonToScan:(UIButton*)button withLabel:(UILabel*)label;
- (id) initWithSuperview:(UIView*)superview andScanType:(int)scanTypeInit;
- (UIButton*) currentlySelectedButton;
- (void) superviewDidAppear;

Monday, October 29, 2012

What do you need in Switchamajig 2.2?

After running version 2.1 of my app at Closing The Gap and listening to feedback, I'm now working on Switchamajig version 2.2.

Planned improvements include:
  1. Adding switch access, both auto-scan and step-scan
  2. Improving the responsiveness when going back to the initial screen
  3. Allowing a single button press to generate a sequence of IR codes
  4. Enabling repeating IR codes
If you need items 3 & 4 sooner, let me know. The switch panels already support those features (and many more,) and there are ways to get at them using iTunes.

I'm also aware of a bug that crashes the app if you tap the IR learning selector before learning any IR codes. I have fixed that bug, but will wait for 2.2 to release it since it doesn't seem like a big deal. Please let me know if you find other problems.

I'm currently on the fence about a turn-taking feature. This is designed for children with autism, and it will allow only one iPad to play with a toy at a time. There will be a way for a child to ask for a turn, and to relinquish control. I need to work out the details, but I'm thinking that settings will let you specify how long each turn can be, etc.

One feature I'm planning to pass on for 2.2 is adding AAC symbols to the app. Several companies sell such symbols, so I won't be able to provide them for free. Instead they'll be an "in-app purchase." I'm thinking you'll need to enable the purchasing in the Settings so that my app doesn't keep popping up "buy this feature" dialog boxes.

I'm really interested to get feedback from you about whether or not I'm working on the right stuff. If you think I've got my priorities wrong, or I'm missing a feature you really need, please leave a comment or drop me an email.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cool Stuff at Closing The Gap

Everything at Closing The Gap is great technology that helps people, so I feel a bit odd listing what really struck me at the show. Still, it's my blog, so here's what I thought was especially cool:

BeyondAdaptive This company makes iPad mounts and key guards. It was great meeting the family who runs the business, especially Brea (follow the link for a picture - I couldn't find one that fit). They can custom-cut keyguards, so if you've created your own Switchamajig panel and want a keyguard for it, contact either them or me and we'll get you set up.

Mount'nMover I've seen this company at several shows. They make mounts for iPads and other devices. The mounts are fairly expensive, but they are designed to take a lot of abuse and still be extremely easy to set up and move from one station to another. Dianne, who runs the company, has amazing product design skills and has a lot of assistive technology experience. If your iPad is a critical part of your life that you always want to have with you, the investment in her mounts could be well worth it.

ZipZac This is a wheelchair for really young children. It was created by an engineer with a connection to a child with spinal bifida, and it requires skills that my own son didn't have that the age the chair is designed for, but I loved seeing these tiny kids zipping around in wheelchairs.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Switchamajig IR Video - I want YOU in my videos!

Here's my latest video on the Switchamajig IR. I believe the IR will be a valuable tool for people who want independent control over items they use every day.

One concern I have is that the preschool-aged, white male with cerebral palsy demographic is a bit over-represented in my videos, and the IR in particular can work for a wide range of ages and conditions.

If you want to be in my video, let me know at info@paw-solutions.com. The intro scenes are about 10 seconds long each, and I'd love to show somebody else taking advantage of my products!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Switchamajig IR Now Available For Pre-order

I've mentioned the new Switchamajig IR before. Now I have them in inventory and will be ready to ship shortly (beta testing is progressing well.)

I'm excited about the IR. Just about everyone has a TV, so accessing it independently is important. TVs and other home theater equipment are also getting more and more capabilities, but those capabilities also mean that their have more buttons. And more buttons usually means smaller buttons.

Works like a universal remote
You can buy very inexpensive remotes with a few big buttons, but they offer access to just a few functions and can't be customized. The IR can control anything that came with an IR remote, and the iPad app has infinite possibilities for customization. You can put a lot of buttons on one screen to make a universal remote, or set up just two buttons to make it really easy to control. Even if you're just using two buttons, you can navigate among several panels to access a lot of functions. I've included several built-in panels that are super easy to set up, but you can change anything around to suit your own needs.

Jackson using two buttons to choose scenes in a DVD
The IR is very unobtrusive, so it can seem like magic. Ours lives in a plant in the corner of the room, but it's always on and ready to control the TV on the other side of the room. We just grab an iPad, start the app, and have full control over our TV, Tivo, and Blu Ray player.

Switchamjig IR
hiding in the (fake) plant
You can pre order the IR now, and we won't charge your card until we are ready to ship. That should be in a couple of weeks.

Check out the Switchamajig IR here!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Speech Therapy: Switchamajig - A Free AAC App

I just finished a video showing how to use the app for AAC, even if you don't have any Switchamajig hardware. There's a lot of capability for a free app, and it's probably all you need if you're just starting with AAC.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Switchamajig for Special Education

Switchamajig is a great platform that works in a lot of different contexts, so I'm adding some resources to my website for different caregivers who use Switchamajig. If you're in special education, I'd love to hear about how you use my product. I'm also looking for pictures and video of teachers and children Switchamajigging to post on my website (with permission for parents, of course.) Leave a comment or drop me an email if you have something to share!

Here's what I have for special ed teachers. What am I missing?

Are the children you work with unable to access toys that mainstream children take for granted? When was the last time a mainstream child asked one of your kids to share an adapted toy? The Switchamajig Controller opens up new possibilities for many students with special needs. It lets them use the iPad, the simplest (not to mention the coolest) user interface ever invented, to control toys like full-function remote controlled cars by touching one button at a time. And you can record different audio on each switch, so the iPad can tell the child that the car is going forward, or turning left, or whatever you want to reinforce. Driving around a vehicle is also a great way to improve spatial relations. But most importantly, you’ll emphasize inclusion. Everyone in the school will want to play with your kids and their toys.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Adapting Classrooms

If you haven't seen the movie Including Samuel, you should.

Dan Habib's documentary looks at how including children with disabilities in mainstream classrooms can enrich everyone's education.

One thing is clear, though. Including children with a wide range of abilities is work. Hard work. I applaud any teacher, but especially teachers who sign up to the challenge of including children with special needs.

I think technology is part of the solution. My daughter's class does cooking every two weeks. The teachers use a fun activity the children relate to as a way to sneak in lessons about math, science, nutrition, following directions, and all sorts of other subjects that could be dry when not drizzled with a raspberry glaze.

But part of cooking is interacting with the physical world. At www.switchamajig.com, there's a video of Jackson helping his sister make cupcakes. He uses the Switchamajig to control a mixer, blender, and can opener. But that's only part of cooking; what about measuring out the ingredients and pouring them into the bowl?

As children get older, the subjects get trickier. Cooking gives way to chemistry, which has a lot of things in common with it. Can we adapt chemistry class for the motor impaired, like what Cory Supalo does for people with visual impairments? I'm thinking tubes with switch-controlled solenoid valves.

What about other sciences, like biology and physics? What other classes do you think we should adapt?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bringing A Fire Truck Costume To Life

We're getting Halloween costume catalogs in the mail, so we asked Jackson what he wanted to be this year.

"A fire fighter."

Who could blame him? San Jose Fire Station No. 15 is just down the street from our home, and they are always happy to see Jackson, who probably thinks that fire fighting involves spraying water from a big truck and handing out stickers.

I figured Jackson would be all set with a yellow raincoat and a plastic fire hat, but that didn't seem like much of a costume. A child in a wheelchair wearing a raincoat wouldn't look too much like a fire fighter.

Unless his wheelchair was a fire truck. Preferably, a working fire truck.

The whole family worked on the project. We found a big cardboard box and bought some spray paint, and in a day we had a fire truck. A pretty cute one, too.

I've seen some cool costumes that used a wheelchair - one of my favorites turned the chair into a Star Wars TIE fighter. But with a Switchamajig, Jackson's truck came to life.

I found some flashlights at Home Depot that can be white, red, or green. They were trickier to adapt than I expected - you're probably better off with single-color flashlight and a battery interrupter. I also bought a Nurf Super Soaker Thunderstorm, a battery-operated squirt gun, and adapted that with a battery interrupter.
Jackson Fires the Squirt Gun with the iPad 

We created a switch panel with the Switchamajig App 2.0 (now in beta.) We downloaded some pictures of a fire hose, siren, and lights, and recorded a siren and bell sound. Then we put the iPad in front of Jackson, and took him for a "drive" around the neighborhood.

We noticed several people doing double-takes while driving by. Jackson ran the siren and bell the whole time, and emptied his squirt gun in just a few seconds. I'll post a video on the Switchamajig web site.

Fire Truck Control Panel
I think there's a lot of potential to make some really amazing Halloween costumes with wheelchairs.
My daughter came up with a long list of ideas:
Police Car
Race Car
Pirate Ship

And of course, you can't go wrong with a Star Wars vehicle. No matter what you choose, you can add lights, action, and sound control with Switchamajig.

Send me your comments with your own ideas! Better yet, post your own videos of your costume in action! Let's Switchamajig Halloween!

Here are a few shots of the innards of the fire truck. I taped almost everything to the inside of the box. For the flashlights, I put 1/4" bolts through the cardboard with washers, and then taped the flashlights to the bolts.
Switch-Adapted Squirt Gun
Switch-Adapted Flashlight
Switchamajig Controlling
Lights and Squirt Gun

Monday, August 6, 2012

Using GoTalk Now With Switchamajig

My own app will soon function as a simple AAC app, but if you're looking for a full-featured app, GoTalk Now from Attainment Company is popular and reasonably priced. They even have a free version!

I'm partial to GoTalk Now because it's the only AAC app that supports the Switchamajig Controller. Just like you define buttons to speak, you can program them to activate switch-adapted toys and other equipment. Their support is only experimental right now, which means they reserve the right to change the way it works, but it's nice to have everything in one app.

To turn it on, you need to open their settings menu. Down toward the bottom you'll see the Switchamajig Support switch under Experimental Features. Turn it on.

Then when you're configuring a button, for Action you can choose Switchamajig. You then set which switches you want the button to toggle, and choose which Switchamajig Controller you want to talk to.

Then when you activate the panel, you can speak and control equipment on the same screen.

 Give it a try and tell me what you think. I have some ideas for ways Attainment can improve the support, but input from people using it is much more valuable than either their or my guess about what you want.

And I'm willing to support anyone who wants to add the same support to their AAC app. If you're a developer, email me. If you have a favorite app and want it Switchamajigged, point the people who wrote it at this post and tell them to get cracking!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Beta Testers Wanted for Switchamajig App 2.0!

I'm getting close to releasing version 2.0 of the Switchamajig app. I won't bore you with all of the technical details (I'm really pleased with my increased use of XML), but with the new version you'll be able to:
  • Create and edit your own switch panels. You can customize almost everything about them: size, color, and position. You can also make the switches activate or deactivate any combination of switches on the Switchamajig controller.
  • Show pictures on the switch.
  • Record a sound to play when a switch is activated.
  • Set up the app to be navigated by a person with special needs, not just a caregiver. (My original view of Switchamajig was mostly just for toys, so I made it difficult to change switch panels.)

For example, you can take pictures of a switch-adapted lamp and fan and put them on buttons. Pressing the lamp button will turn the lamp on and say "lamp," while pressing the fan button will turn on the fan and say "fan."

You can also use the app as a simple AAC device, with or without the Switchamajig.

I'm excited that this new version of the app will meet the needs of a lot more people.

I'm looking for beta testers for the app. If you're interested, email me at support@paw-solutions.com. Please let me know how you plan to use the app and if you already own a Switchamajig Controller.

I'm also always open to hearing suggestions from you even if you don't want to beta-test the app. My top three features to add in the future are:
  1. Support for a new product I hope to announce shortly.
  2. Switch scanning support.
  3. A turn-taking feature to allow two iPads to share one toy and help with socialization.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

GarageBand: Instant Adapted Musical Instruments

It's hardly groundbreaking to say that music is valuable for children's education. Plato is widely quoted as saying “music is a more potent instrument than any other for education.” Justin Bieber thinks its important, too. I, for one, wouldn't want to argue with either Plato or Justin Bieber.

We've found introducing music to our son Jackson very rewarding, and surprisingly easy. We started with a synthesizer keyboard we had lying around our house. Despite his motor-control disability, Jackson is able to hit the keys and make some music. I it helps him understand the ordering of notes from low to high and other abstract concepts. It's also something he can do independently (all we need to do is applaud) and that he enjoys.
We also own two toy guitars, one from Little Tykes and another from Paper Jams. The Little Tykes guitar has nine switches of various types: five push buttons, three strings to pluck, and one slider. It plays a few notes and some low-fi renditions of old rock songs.
Paper Jamz has no switches. Instead it senses your fingers over the strings and plays music. We also have a drum kit from them as well. They let you play music on your own or play along with one of the built-in songs. Different models include different songs; we bought Jackson the guitar that plays “Machinehead” by Bush.
I'm a big believer in adapting things to work with the iPad. Jackson did a pretty good job of accessing the instruments without any adaptation, though. There also isn't much point in switch-adapting them when you can buy GarageBand for $4.99.
GarageBand give you keyboards, guitars, basses, drums, violins, and lots and lots of related instruments. It's a powerful tool, and apparently people with much more talent than I possess can compose complete songs with it. Jackson is particularly fond of the Sampler, where you record your own sounds and then play them back on the keyboard.

The app can be a bit tricky for someone without much motor control. Many of the targets are quite small, and accidental swipes can pull up menus to do things like change the Scale to something called “Mixolydian.” I generally sit with Jackson while he's playing to help him escape from such situations. But it's one of the best $4.99 purchases I've ever made. With the Autoplay feature, in a few taps Jackson can create music that sounds like he's been been taking lessons for years.

What's your favorite use of music for children with special needs?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Switching Up Adapted Toys

I started Switchamajig to expand the options my own son has for playing with toys. I feel that the single-switch toys that predominate do not provide enough of the benefits of play. Lekotek lists these benefits here.

As the parent of a child with special needs, I feel a lot of pressure to be an outstanding parent. I think children are in general resilient, so “good enough” parenting is usually, well, good enough. But children with special needs are using their resiliency to cope with their disability, and many still need help.

Between all of the therapy and the work of addressing my son’s disabilities, it’s easy to lose sight of playtime. And playtime has its own challenges, not the least of which is to find age-appropriate toys to play with.

I think multi-switch toys are a part, although only a part, of the answer. My Switchamajig simplifies the use of complex remote-controlled toys so that my son can drive them all over the house using only his pointer finger on the iPad’s touch screen. 

I also wonder if children with other disabilities would benefit from using these toys. Even if they don’t have motor deficiencies, cognitive difficulties or behavioral issues like autism might mean that they still can’t succeed with complex toys. Simplifying the user interface with the iPad might help this children as well, and merely using the iPad might draw in children who tend to fixate on their favorite app.

I want this blog to become a discussion of how expanding the reach of the iPad can help the most people possible. I’ll use it to discuss new features I’m considering for my app and to get your ideas for new products to develop. Let the discussion begin!