Friday, May 24, 2024

‘Special’ Technologies Make The World More Accessible To All

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Narayanan Bhattathiripad, senior vice president-Product Engineering Services, Mistral Solutions, says, “ScripTalk was developed to cater to the needs of the visually-challenged. The solution, developed for the US-based En-Vision America, is an RFID tag based prescription reader. The reader eliminates dependency on human assistance for taking prescription medication. The prescription label information is programmed into RFID tags and pasted on drug containers used by patients. Patients use their own private ScripTalk Station Reader to read the label information, including medication name and dosage, instructions, warnings and other prescription details.”

He also explains that containing the overall cost of the product was extremely critical as it dictated how well the product would be received in the market. Given its cost-effective core, Blackfin was found to be the best fit for this requirement.

Kantheti Srinivas, Processor and DSP Applications director, Analog Devices, explains, “One of the simplest ways to reduce the cost of a device is to combine separate devices into one. With the programmable Blackfin processor, En-Vision found a single device that can simultaneously implement control functions and TTS processing that requires significant amount of DSP processing, reducing time-to-market, as well as bill-of-materials (BOM) and development costs. With Blackfin’s on-chip power-management feature, designers were able to fine-tune the processor’s power consumption profile without using an external power management IC.”

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As regards ScripTalk’s USP, he says, “The product is lightweight and portable and works with any prescription in multiple languages. This works well with the visually-challenged, who have to refer to their prescriptions that are usually not embedded with the Braille script.”

ScripTalk is used extensively in the US. Its developers have a tie-up with leading pharmacies like Walmart and CVS, providing ScripTalk an immense reach in the US market. The number of patient readers out in the US is now over 15,000. Today, patients obtain their reader for free, with a large pharmacy network partnering with En-Vision. Although the product is currently not available in India, En-Vision is fast expanding its markets globally.

Making music truly universal
Music is solace for the soul, for all. There have been brilliant examples in the past, of people with disabilities taking to music like fish to water. The famous solo percussionist, Dame Evelyn Glennie, for example, lost her hearing at the age of 12. Yet, she learnt to ‘feel’ the sound through sight, vibrations, etc, and went on to become one of the world’s most renowned percussionists.

Thankfully, things are much easier today for people with disabilities who wish to learn and play music. Technology has helped prove that music is felt rather than simply heard—and if a special person has an innate talent, she can definitely bring it out for the world to see. There are, for example, apps that turn the iPad into touch-sensitive synthesisers, movement-to-audio converters, etc, so people can create music without depending on sight, speech or even hearing!

Bonebridge—a hearing implant launched by Med-El
Bonebridge—a hearing implant launched by Med-El

Then, there are people such as Doug Briggs, the pioneer of the term Assistive Music Technology (AMT), who are constantly developing new products or customising existing ones to enable special people to tap the talent within them or to help established musicians who are suddenly crippled by an illness or accident.

Briggs, along with his Adaptive Music Technology Research Group (AMTRG) at Huddersfield University, has adapted many pieces of existing technology for special needs education. A graduate student at their centre, for example, has developed an iPad app with a very simple and intuitive interface for controlling surround sound by drawing a path, then manipulating it with the iPad’s two-finger squeeze or three-finger rotation. It is easy for everybody to use, and can also help a person who can move only three fingers to control the mix.

In a recent article in Sound on Sound (, Doug Briggs explains that AMT involves three stages: input stage, processing stage and output stage. This is kind of similar to a typical modern digital recording situation where the input corresponds to playing an instrument, processing to sequencing and/or processing, and the output to listening to your mix.


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