What the Future Sounded Like

Fantastic 2006 video above on some of the earliest days of British Electronic music. Below is the the Hybrid Music 6000 Sensor, from around 1989, one of the earliest electronic musical instruments designed to remove barriers for a range of disabled musicians.

Via: Retro-Kit.co.uk and BBC Micro Mailing List

Hybrid Music 6000 system for BBC Micro. Accessible musical instrument pre-Sound Beam and Midi Creator.

Hybrid Music 6000 Sensor

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MaxAim and JoyToKey with GlovePie: Super Powered Standard Controllers

Controller Max Max Aim Plugin for Sony Playstation 3 - Accessible Gaming set-up

JoyToKey and MaxAim link up - Accessible Gaming set-up for Xbox 360 and PS2 controllers

Xbox 360 and Playstation 2 controllers (via an Xbox 360 adapter) can be given all kinds of extra powers when connected to a PC then linked to a PS3/PS4/Xbox360/XboxOne.

With MaxAim and other software such as JoyToKey and GlovePie mappings synchronised, you can make standard controllers do much more than usual. Rapid-fire, latching, profile switching, profile shifting, control cycling (you can assign up,right,left,down to a single button to step through) and so on. Using GlovePie or the likes you can use speech too (see script below).

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WiFi Plug: Affordable Environmental Control

WiFi plug PC interface for simple control over electrical devices. Great for affordable basic environmental control.

WiFi plug allows you to turn electrical devices on and off via an iOS, Android or PC/Mac web-based interface. Switch access is possible for all, but I was especially pleased with the PC/Mac access.

You can use TAB and ENTER to step through your options, and hover over the power button to use one-switch to turn a device on/off to your heart's content. Devices like fans, lights, bubble-tubes, food-mixers, heaters, basic radios and so on are all possible to control in this way, and they work instantly. Great as a cause and effect device. Great for basic environmental control. If Apple address the short-comings in switch access on iOS devices, maybe iOS cause and effect quality switch access will be possible one day too.

Each device costs around £40, although they're running a special offer with three for £100 at the minute. I really like the ability to batch multiple devices and be able to switch them all on/off on the press of a single switch. Entire sensory room effects / night-club effects on the press of a switch. Could be very impressive.

Of great interest to accessibility hardware hackers, is the site http://www.wifiplug.co.uk/api.html for which (once you purchase a device) you can request access to the Software Development Kit and API code to download and fashion into something perhaps far more accessible. The company are currently working on voice control too which would be very nice.

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Apple iOS: Forgotten Switch Users

Apple iOS7 Switch Access screen shot, Apple logo and "The Forgotten".

After Apple added switch access to their iOS based devices there was much celebration in Assistive Technology circles, me included. iOS7 unified the disparate switch interfaces, gave developers a cheap way to emulate switches (such as via a keyboard through the USB camera adapter), and gave an excellent way to emulate touch gestures for the most able of switch users.

Something is seriously missing though. It's just not possible to repeatedly, easily and quickly tap/swipe a specific point in far too many apps. If an app is not set-up with decent hot-spots / voice-over items you are forced into a laborious gliding bar auto-scanning X-Y point mode that takes five accurately timed presses of the switch to repeat an action. The gliding bar point mode is well done for basic use, but it's useless for too many activities...

Most action based tap/swipe games are impossible to play, such as the wonderful Ski Safari Adventure Time. Many music activities are impossible/horrible too, such as using the drum randomiser in Garage Band, or breaking a laser beam in Beamz to tap out a tune. Affordable environmental control with WiFi Plug doesn't work for cause and effect use. It goes on and on.

What would help massively would be for the addition of a mode where each time you activate switch 1 it emulates a fixed gesture at the same point, until you activate switch 2. That would suit switch users who can manage two switches, and most importantly, and the most forgotten, more severely learning disabled switch users, where an assistant could help line up the cursor to stay at a fixed point that does something exciting/interesting.

It may be possible to do something like this for skilled one-switch users too, perhaps with a timer to help you drop out of the mode, with it being quite easy to reactivate the mode. Apple have come so far with switch access, but it's just not quite there yet.

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Custom Light Pressure Gaming Controller

Custom Light Pressure Gaming Controller for Accessible Gaming

Mini-Joy joypad with five Ultra-Light switches.

JoyToKey with Accessible Gaming set-up for PSone, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Gamecube/Wii set-ups.

Above is a custom build for a customer in Switzerland designed to work on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

The core controls are the thumb-stick and five Ultra-light buttons to be positioned under each finger. They connect to an adapted wired Xbox 360 joypad and are recognised as Stick 2, Button1-4 and Button 10 in JoyToKey.

JoyToKey v.5.6 allows all kinds of functions to be assigned to each button. For instance, in the GameCube/Wii emulator you can play GC Zelda and all keys using three profiles. The highlighted profile above gives:

Stick 2: Joypad
Button 1: A
Button 2: B
Button 3: LT/RT (alternates each time you press)
Button 4: Look around (cycles through looking up, right, down, left)
Button 5: Change profile

I had this playing Blur on PS3 using the joystick, buttons for accelerate, brake, power-up and e-brake. Using GlovePie, I added speech controls for switching power-ups and pausing the game. With Assassin's Creed III on Xbox 360, I managed to cram the controls down without needing speech.

Not easy to build controls remotely, but I'm hoping this set-up does the trick. It's certainly complex, but it's also a great way to reduce the number of physical controls needed. If interested in finding out more, feel free to get in touch.

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