Please bare with me whilst I ramble on…

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[Novelty] Adding a letterbox blur effect to text editors

Background

Here’s an idea I thought about today whilst retyping from notepad in MS Word (yes! retyping…I had my reasons for not copying and pasting). Most of these ideas come about as a result of problems I’m having or issues that I think should be simpler. For example, if you’re reading a journal in a browser and attempting to rewrite ideas, you might need the view of the browser whilst in Word.

One way is to resize the Word window and place it at the top or bottom or even to the side. I’ve always done this but I found myself looking at Tolman’s research into cognitive mapping and it had a bit of interesting text and diagrams which were pretty relevant as well.  There was only about 3 lines worth of space between the text I needed and the diagram below it. Resizing the window and placing it at a corner didn’t help. I thought it would be nice to resize it to about the same size of the screen area I didn’t need (about 3 lines worth) but all the toolbars etc padded it out. You might ask why didn’t I hide them? Well, I shouldn’t have to and then bring them up when I need them. Lets blame it on laziness.

Solution

How about an option that blurs out the entire Word window apart from the current line the cursor’s on? Well that might be a bit difficult when trying to understand what you’ve written in that sentence so far. So, one line above and one line before the current active line would suffice. I have a mental picture of it and I think it’ll work.

Now, if you use your mouse or keyboard arrows to scroll up and down, the “letterbox” view of the current line stays where it was originally positioned. That is configuration 1. Configuration 2 entails moving the letterbox with the cursor. So, if the current line is at the top of the page, the letterbox appears on top and moves downwards as the down arrow is pressed or the mouse is used to scroll down. Make sense? Well, in my head it does.

Getting the rest of the editor back in view will be implemented using the same method Word currently utilises when it blurs out the font editor after you select some text; and reveals it when you move your cursor over it. Any takers for implementing this??

 

Do refrain from stealing my ideas. However, if you have/do come up with something similar, let’s have a chat.

Blind people’s attempt at forming cognitive maps

When learning to navigate through a space, blind people attempt to develop cognitive maps which would help them acquire and recall information about their surroundings to facilitate accurate and safer navigation through an environment.

In travelling, people who are blind tend to adopt other methods of recognising their surroundings. This sometimes involves the use of other senses such as: hearing, for recognising familiar sounds; touch, to identify physical reference points; and even smell. Shore-lining could help with the formation of cognitive maps by exposing blind people to the idea that more spatial information exists outside of their pre-defined route.

Combining methods of physical exploration (such as shore-lining), with methods of perception (such as sound and smell), and phenomena such as the Doppler Effect, might aid blind people in forming a vague mental map of their surrounding environment. For example, they might be able to judge the size of a room by the echoing of their voice, or their position in a room due to the difference in temperature. In addition to this, other aural phenomena could help aid in recognition of objects.

Problems faced by people with visual impairments

Blind or visually impaired people are somewhat limited in day-to-day activities. One of the major impoverishments they suffer is full sensory access to information. Work is being carried out on aids to improve their general standards of living. Many inventors and researchers see the need to find ways of improving the quality of life of blind people.

With lack of vision, visually impaired people face greater challenges in their everyday routines. The Hampshire Association for the Care of the Blind claims that blind people feel the safest when they are at home (Geary, 2006). A blind person gets used to returning items to known locations in their homes just so that they could be found again. Attention to detail like this is often ignored by sighted people due to their ability to visually recognise the location of moved objects. The use of proper lighting, tagging, marking, and colour contrast, could help people with limited vision to find objects and surfaces with respect to their immediate surroundings.

In order to move around safely, blind people need a general understanding of their direction of travel (orientation) and how to transverse in space with little or no effort. Foulke, (1971) cited in Martinsen et al (2007), describes Orientation and Mobility (O&M) as:

“The ability both to move smoothly through space without disruption because of accidental contact with obstacles and to orient with the environment to achieve purposeful or goal-directed movement”.

Various degrees of skill with O&M are required when learning to travel from place to place, depending on the nature and difficulty of the travel environments (Long & Hill, 1997).

Blackberry shortcuts

Ok, I didn’t think this was post-worthy but I didn’t know about them so maybe someone else doesn’t. There are a few shortcuts I discovered when using my blackberry and I’m willing to share. Type any of the following in an email or bbm message or text window and hit enter or space:

  1. mypin – gives your unique blackberry pin
  2. mynumber – displays your telephone number
  3. myver – shows your version of the blackberry software you’re currently running
  4. ld– provides the long date value
  5. lt– displays the current long time
  6. usrid – shows your user id
  7. sig – shows your user signature if you have one.

Please note that there are others which are available in the auto-text section but these are probably the most commonly used. I just thought I’d share 🙂

[Novelty] Extending a Windows/Linux application to a mobile phone

This idea involves extending an application from a desktop/laptop to a mobile device.This idea initially started as something for convenience, but a closer look will reveal potential benefits for a somewhat niche market.

The initial implementation would be using a mobile phone as an extended screen. For example, placing the phone within a certain distance away from the machine automatically pairs it and compatible applications could be moved from screen to screen.

This could be taken further to include native mobile apps which “extend” desktop applications. For example, when using a modelling piece of software, a different view could be displayed on a mobile phone while you work on another view on a desktop. In this case, the phone is paired to the machine via wi-fi. For the sake of convenience, this phone could be taken to a different location with the application still running on it.

Do refrain from stealing my ideas. However, if you have/do come up with something similar, lets have a chat.

Final FYP topic and ideas…

FINAL IDEA

Inclined towards making a difference (i.e. creating something that could be used by dependent people), I was introduced to an already existing project called Virtual Cane. This project utilises the Wiimote as an assistive device in a virtual environment to assist the blind to learn routes and improve their spatial awareness of a given venue/area without the need of a trainer. My initial draft/ideas of my project proposal is detailed below:

Possible topic name

Investigation into cognitive mapping in a virtual environment by people who are blind

Problem

People who are blind tend not to be independent travellers; those who are have to spend a great deal of time and effort learning and remembering sequential routes. They are dependent on trainers to do so. Espinosa et al (1998) suggest that orienting oneself in a new environment and moving efficiently and independently are difficult tasks which depend upon a series of processes of high cognitive complexity. Golledge (1993) adds that these tasks are even more complicated in the case of blind and visually impaired people, thus the abilities of both travelling independently and interacting with the outer world are the greatest challenges for this specific population.

Another key pain point is the unavailability of route trainers. Learning a new route requires the involvement of a trainer to accompany a blind person for a period of time in order to learn the route and to identify reference points.

Proposed solution

An existing project by Evett et al (2010) called “Virual Cane” utilizes the Nintendo WII’s remote (Wiimote) in virtual environments. The blind, or partially sighted, use the Wiimote as an adaptive assistive device to interact with a virtual environment. They are able to explore the environment safely, and are thus more able to construct a cognitive map of it than they would be if they just learned a route through it, as they would do in the usual way. The user can become aware of the surrounding environment and thus traverse a route through it more safely and with more confidence.

Aims and methodology

This research project intends to take the Virtual Cane a step further by providing more useful auditory feedback of an environment in order for the blind to successfully create cognitive maps, obtain more spatial awareness, and evidently, navigate around a space without the need for a trainer or additional help.

Virtual Cane uses the Wiimote to scan the environment, and the Wii Nunchuck for rotation and movement. This project will investigate more usable ways to navigate and explore an environment with little or no prior knowledge of the hardware. To achieve this goal, user requirements will be derived from real blind subjects and weighed against the current functions, and ease-of-use of the Virtual Cane.

Due to the key focus of this project being the end users usability, user-centred design methodology was chosen, with the intended users at the centre of its design and implementation.

Testing

This project hopes to use real life blind subjects to test the application in the virtual environment and then in the real world, in order to achieve realistic feedback. These test subjects are already in close contact with the university.

References

http://blog.dyadica.net/pages/wiisearch/wii-cane/creating-an-intelligent-virtual-cane-using-the-nintendo-wii-controller

http://goet-project.eu/news/

http://www.wayfinding.net/navigate.htm

http://www.springerlink.com/content/a1058r0866284027/

 

Start of my final year project

INITIAL IDEAS

The following post was written sometime last year (about October) but I’m cleaning up my blog so I thought it’d be nice to reorder everything. More updates on my FYP will follow soon.

Ok, it’s that time of the year where final year students get their project ideas and hopefully come up with something feasible.

  1. My initial plan was to create Twitter 3-D: This would have been 3-D sphere with nodes that signified people you followed. Extended nodes would indicate follower’s followers and so on. It would have been interactive in the sense that you would have been able to drag an extended contact to the center of the sphere – you. That way, a follow request is sent to them.This seemed like a pretty neat and cool idea but it only gave a different representation of Twitter but it didn’t add any value per say. This is still on my list of to-dos when I get the chance to be geeky outside of uni work.
  2. Next, I planned to create a home automation and monitoring system whereby I use my Android powered mobile phone to remotely control appliances in my home. I also intended to make it smart by having devices configure themselves. For example, based on my location, time of the day, peak times of electricity and other factors, devices would automatically turn on/off, suspend for a time period, or take appropriate action. Now, this has already been done by a tonne of people. I wanted to add a spin to it by calling it “Home automation and control for the elderly”. This would have been a good idea but lack of support from my tutor convinced me otherwise.

Status Updater for Lotus Notes

Perform the following steps to install status updater to Lotus Notes:

  1. In Notes, go to File > Preferences.
  2. Navigate to Widgets.
  3. Select the “Show Widget Toolbar and the My Widgets Sidebar panel” if not already selected.
  4. Click Apply and then Ok.
  5. Make sure the Widgets sidebar is open and active.
  6. Click this link.
  7. On the top right corner, find “Install” with an icon next to it.
  8. Drag-and-drop the link in the Widgets window.
  9. Follow the prompts and agree to them. You’ll be asked to restart Notes.
  10. Click Yes.

All done!! You need to set up your twitter account and you can tweet from Notes.
All this is thanks to @lbenitez

For more information, see here.

Brief intro…

CHECK OUT ONE OF THE TABBED PAGES ABOVE THIS!!

So, a brief introduction of who and what I am. My full first name’s Abubakar (Abu for short). I study Computer Science at Nottingham Trent University, I’m a Technical Writer, Eclipse plugin developer, aspiring innovator, and consumability & usability rookie!

Not sure how much information I should put on the internet about myself due to our ever persistent phishing colleagues. Oh well…You might notice a few references to IBM in my blogs but that’s because I was an IP student there working at Hursley (that’s right…you heard it, the famous Hursley). More about this soon…

Even though I’ve had a shot at blogging before, I can’t seem to remember what site I used or even the username & password I chose. Not sure how I came about deciding whether to get a blog but I googled my name “Abu Sule”  and it came up with links of websites that I apparently signed up to. Some were dating, others were just random and weird. Who knew my crap video of me djing would be viewed and embedded on other people’s websites (RE: Video). Weird! My YouTube account (http://www.youtube.com/user/renegade8701) hasn’t been updated or looked at for a while now. [WARNING: Strong language and scenes of mental instability might be a regular occurrence].

For my social life, i have a Facebook account: facebook.com/djvegetables . For my professional life, there’s Twitter:  twitter.com/abusule . Who said we can’t keep work and social life separate? lol.

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DISCLAIMER:

Every statement, comment, or suggestion made on this blog is strictly mine and does not reflect IBM’s positions, opinions, or strategies.