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In this article, I will show you how to transform an ordinary laptop into a powerful, hands-free communications device.

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 Alternative and Augmentative Communication

Alternative and Augmentative Communication This article will show you how to transform your laptop into the ultimate alternative and augmentative communication device. This project requires a webcam and two downloads: Camera Mouse, which uses the webcam to track your eyes, and OptiKey, an optical keyboard that can be used to spell out words and phrases.

Alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) used express thoughts, wants, needs, and ideas. People with sever speech or language disabilities rely on AAC to supplement existing speech or to replace speech that is non functional. This article shows you how to set up your laptop to take advantage of two free programs, an optical keyboard and a webcam-based eye tracker.

Please note that this project may only work on Windows-based laptops.

 Additional Software

Downloads Here:

OptiKey is an assistive on-screen keyboard which runs on Windows. It can be used with Camera Mouse to assist with keyboard and mouse control for those living with motor and speech limitations. OptiKey is ready to use out of the box, and if there is no eye tracking device/software available, OptiKey can also be used with a mouse.

OptiKey (Free Download)

Camera Mouse

Camera Mouse

Camera Mouse, developed at Boston College to help people with disabilities to use computers, works in conjunction with the laptop's webcam to control the cursor simply by moving your eye across the screen. This program is available free on their website.

Camera Mouse is designed to help people who do not have reliable control over their hands, but who may be able to move their head and neck. People with Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Multiple Sclerosis, Traumatic Brain Injury, Motor Neuron Disease (MND) and various neurological disorders benefit from this free download.

We can use Camera Mouse in conjunction with the OptiKey virtual keyboard, which works perfectly together. For the Web-based Alternative Augmented Communications portal linked below, we will only use the Camera Mouse, which will allow us to navigate through the AAC web-portal using our eyes instead of our hands.

Camera Mouse 2017 (Free Download)

 Putting It All Together

Begin by downloading and installing both, the Camera Mouse and OptiKey software. Run the Camera Mouse program first. Click on either left or right eye and wait a few seconds for the webcam to begin tracking your eye. Neck start the OptiKey program, which will lock to the top of your screen, pushing any additional windows to the bottom half of the screen.

I have included the alpha-version of an alternative and augmentative communication website I am developing. This GUI-driven website allows users with vocal or motor disabilities to effectively communicate by navigating between categories and selecting words and phrases that reflect the user's needs and wants. Install and run the Camera Mouse program before using the Alternative Augmented Communication site linked below. Minimize the Camera Mouse program before clicking on the link below. Also, make sure that the OptiKey virtual keyboard is turned off.

Web-based Alternative Augmented Communications Portal

Johnathan Nicolosi - (updated) 23 Mar 2018