Even those who consider themselves particularly coordinated will no doubt have been guilty of a misplaced tap here or a badly timed swipe there when using touchscreen devices. But spare a thought for children with fine motor impairments who are essentially excluded from the touchscreen device world and all its educational, entertainment and social benefits. A new device called Access4Kids aims to bring this world within reach of such users.
For people of a certain generation, "Hopscotch" will always be a game where you jump between chalk-drawn numbered rectangles. Now Fraunhofer researchers have developed an interactive version of the playground game that's designed to motivate users to learn in a fun and playful way while also helping them keep fit.
This is one of the coolest toys I've played with in years. LiveScribe's smartpens have the ability to instantly digitize anything you write in a notebook and send it to a tablet or PC as a handwritten note. But here's the cool part: they can also record the sound you were hearing when you wrote those notes, timecoded to each penstroke, so, for example, you can tap on a lecture note and hear exactly what the professor was saying when you were writing it. The latest LiveScribe pen, the Sky Wifi, has built-in wireless connectivity that quickly syncs your notes, audio and all, with the ubiquitous Evernote application so you can read and play them back on your PC, tablet or smartphone. It's a fascinating device that revolutionizes the taking, usage and sharing of handwritten notes. We spent ten days with a LiveScribe Sky 4 GB.
As input methods like the Gauntlet
and the back-type prototype
from AlphaUI effectively demonstrate, there are many novel ways to enter text into a computer system. I'll wager that few (if any) Gizmag readers would consider using a set of drums to type out messages, though. But that's precisely what Alec Smecher has done. He readily admits that it's not the most practical typing solution but it is helping him to hone his skills as a bucket banger.
Where to start with the "Beauty and the Geek" wearable keyboard. It's tempting to launch into a spiel about cafe-hopping hipsters that might just (and I mean just) be tempted by a pair of jeans with a built-in keyboard. Anything to lighten the load, non? But it's hard to imagine even the least self-aware urbanite willing to subject himself to the inevitable crotch-stares that BatG would surely attract - even when he's not
typing. Which isn't to dismiss Nieuwe Heren's design - it does incorporate some rather neat ideas.
Urgent messages sent using Morse Code via radio waves or by electrical telegraphy are, by necessity, quite short - after all, you don't want to spend all day dotting and dashing your way through War and Peace
. These days, of course, if you want to send the latest piece of gossip or news to those near and dear there are quite a few quicker options - from email to instant messaging and Facebook to Twitter. For users of the latter networking platform who are looking for a novel way to merge the old with the new, Martin Kaltenbrummer's open source Tworsekey Morse Code interface can deliver messages direct to the Twitter API via Ethernet LAN.
While the success of Apple’s iDevices has prompted a swathe of games perfectly suited to a touchscreen interface, many types of games suffer when making the transition from a controller-based interface. As a result we’ve seen a number of peripherals designed to add a physical controller to iOS devices, such as the GameBone Pro
and low-tech JOYSTICK-IT
. Those looking for a slightly more traditional input device for their mobile gaming needs now have another product to consider in the form of the 60beat GamePad.
There are basically two groups of users that require the most advanced, ergonomic and multitask-capable input peripherals - hardcore gamers and professionals working with sophisticated software. 3Dconnexion has updated its lineup of 3D mice aimed at the latter group of users with the SpaceMouse Pro. The new arrival is equipped with six-degrees-of-freedom sensor for manipulating 3D objects, 15 programmable keys and an on-screen display.
If you find that having your hands on the keyboard and mouse still isn’t giving you enough control over your computer, perhaps you’d like to let your feet in on the action, too. While some people might think that's overkill, it’s precisely what the Thanko USB Foot Switch lets you do. Available as either a single pedal or a joined trio, the floor-located device plugs into your PC’s USB port, and controls a function (or three) of your choice via foot taps.
While fingers are by far and away the most popular form of input device for touchscreens these days, using a stylus
offers an accuracy that stubby fingers like mine just can’t match. While just about any stick of plastic will do for resistive touchscreens, capacitive touchscreens that rely on a distortion of the screen’s electrostatic field require a stylus that is electrically conducting. If your day finds you switching between devices that use different touchscreen technologies then the new Quillit 3 in 1 Stylus Pen from Proporta will cover all the bases. It will even let you interact with that most ancient of displays – paper – as it its third function is as an ordinary pen.