Directional dyslexia is characterized by a difficulty distinguishing left from right. While it is very real and frustrating for those affected, it is not an actual king of dyslexia. It can be a symptom of several other types of dyslexia or may be a different kind of disability altogether. Nonetheless, those affected by directional dyslexia are susceptible to design exclusion, specifically with regard to intellectual functioning. For example, navigational apps can be difficult to use people who suffer from directional dyslexia. Most navigational apps will announce upcoming turns by telling you to turn left or right in a set distance. When you reach the turn, it may tell you to turn left. This is useful when a user is driving, because they don’t have to look at their phone, which would distract them from the road. However, if you have directional dyslexia, it’s difficult to take advantage of this functionality.
This idea came to us from personal experience with friends and relatives that struggle with directionality. We observed that while a GPS can help with disorientation, it can also be a source of stress as the user struggles to identify which way to turn. This is where we came up with the idea of vibrating wristbands that could vibrate or light up in conjunction with a bluetooth enabled GPS to help the wearer determine in real time right versus left turns. After discussing the overall concept of vibrating wristbands we determined a Bluetooth connection would be the easiest way to integrate the wristbands and the GPS. After searching for something we could hack to be our vibrating feature, we decided that for proof of concept we could use LEDs to alert the user. However, in a higher fidelity prototype we would want to keep from distracting the driver with blinking lights.
We used sketching for several aspects of this project. The first sketch we drew helped us visualize the different pieces of the system one by one. We started by drawing two hands with wristbands around them. We realized we would need an Arduino to power the these wristbands, and we knew that our prototype wouldn’t have wireless capability, so we sketched an Arduino that connected to the wristbands through speaker wire. We also knew it would interface with a smartphone app, so we drew an iPhone with a navigation app open. To illustrate the purpose of the bracelets, we showed the iPhone telling the user to turn left and we drew lines indicating that the left bracelet was vibrating.
The second sketch came later in the process. By this point, we knew that we didn’t have the resources to make the wristbands vibrate and had decided to use LEDs instead. This sketch acted as a blueprint when we started prototyping. It showed us how the individual components of our prototype would fit together, and included an Arduino, a breadboard, LED lights, and an audio connector. This helped us plan the smaller details and was certainly useful when we started putting everything together.
The plan was to create an audio file that cycles a beep through the left and right channels of audio, making sure that neither ever plays at the same time. This would simulate a direction output by a GPS system, telling a driver to turn left or right. The audio would then be routed to a corresponding LED to display whether the left or right was output. This seemed like a straightforward plan until our group ran into inconsistencies with the Arduino analog input. We were able to determine which channel the signal was coming from by reading the data, but analog interference made it hard to code what we were seeing.
We did have more consistent data coming from one of the channels so the decision was made to light the green light when that channel was playing and the red light when it was not. Upon making this design choice we realized that we might as well hard code the actions of the lights, synchronizing them with a script.
Putting the final prototype together consisted of connecting the Arduino to the breadboard. Next the bread board was connected to two lights using speaker wire. These two lights were each connected to a wrist strap to represent right and left directions.
I really liked the idea our group came up with. I believe it could truly help somebody with driving dyslexia. When we first began prototyping, it seemed like an overwhelming task. We had to program an Arduino, wire a breadboard and even use a soldering gun. It didn’t help that I hadn’t worked with circuits or Arduinos in over two years. However, our team had a strong chemistry and we were able to put all the pieces together and create the system we had envisioned. Whenever we had a problem, somebody came up with a creative way to circumvent that problem so the team could keep making progress. We put a lot into this project, and I’m proud of the way it turned out. Now that I’ve relearned how to program an Arduino, I hope that our final project in this class provides an opportunity to use one. I’ve come a long way as a programmer since the last time I worked with one, and I want to see what they’re capable of given a little more time.
To me this project hits pretty close to home. My mom struggles with differentiating between her left and right so this seemed like a way to resolve some of that stress. Having never worked with Bluetooth before, I was a little anxious to figure out how exactly all the different elements would come together. It was exciting to develop a product that means something and that could potentially have a lasting impact. Our team had a really great combination of skills that helped us discover this product amongst a fairly deep bench of questions and several different people mentioned possibly wanting to pursue this product further. It was rather refreshing that whenever we ran into a problem, the team was really good at coming up with a solution to keep the project alive.
I felt that the idea that we developed for this pressure project was one of the more practical, applicable, and appreciable projects that I’ve worked on. That said, I was very encouraged and excited to develop the idea further. As a team, we came together very quickly to develop something we all felt passionate about and were excited to be a part of, which I felt fostered an exquisite atmosphere of creativity and problem solving. We had two major setbacks during the development of our wristbands: the lack of a vibrational motors and the analog input interference we encountered on our Arduino. I feel that if we had more time, we would have easily been able to locate an appropriate product we could tear down and salvage the motors from (old cellphones?) Further, I feel that we could have continued researching our interference issues and ultimately discovered the solution or a better approach. Regardless, I am still very satisfied with the medium fidelity prototype we were able to toss together in just a few hours. Given the opportunity, I think this is an idea that we could all appreciate and take pride in continuing development on.
This idea was one of the best possibilities available for this project. Upon hearing it, my brain raced in numerous directions. First, I realized that dyslexic people were not the only group that this audience was applicable for. Deaf and “normal” people could also benefit from this creation! Even for myself, I would love a notification on the specific wrist that correlated with my next turn. This product could be marketed for all, yet be very useful for certain people with disabilities that are still able to drive. Our group tried our best to produce a prototype that would respond to our input pseudo-directions, but after running into roadblocks, we still refused to give up. It was obvious that our presentation could be pulled off with a “Wizard-of-Oz” prototype. Although our prototype would not be fully functional, it would appear to be and that is all that matters when conveying our idea to an audience. We knew that it was possible to make our idea a reality so why show a half-working prototype that we could not achieve full potential on, when we could emulate full functionality? I really enjoyed working on this project because it proved to me that it is possible to construct an awesome, and very lucrative, idea with a prototype in less than 48 hours. It proved the idea of “working smart.”