May 1, 2008 Psychoacoustics researchers and industrial technologists use a pen computer to assist visually impaired students to learn science and math. The pen writes in ink, but when used on paper printed with a special pattern of dots, its mounted camera records the movement, which can be downloaded to a computer. The camera can match the location on the paper with the time at which the audio was recorded to facilitate a narrated trip through a student's notes.
Blind students are about to speed up their learning curve thanks to a new "smart" pen. Did you know, just three characters of Braille take up an inch on a page? This new pen can condense that information into just one smart dot. A pen that talks to you: For most of us, that's just cool new technology, but for a blind student, this pen may rewrite their future. "Better access to spatial information for blind people will result ultimately, we believe, in better employment and better opportunities for people after they get out of school," Joshua A. Miele, Ph..D., an associate scientist at The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, Calif., told Ivanhoe.
Using technology to improve learning, instructional technologists developed this Smartpen. It not only records what you write, it remembers when you wrote it. And when a teacher can swing by a student's desk and draw the same picture that's on the blackboard, everyone is on the same page.
Just hit record and let the pen do the rest. "It's a pen," Andy Van Schaack, Ph.D., senior science advisor at Livescribe, Inc. in Oakland, Calif., explained Ivanhoe. "You hold it in your hand. It looks like a pen.
It works like a pen so you can just open up a notebook and take notes, but if you turn the pen on, it's a computer." The visually impaired have a 70 percent unemployment rate. One reason -- training and education are a great challenge. School supplies were a heavy burden. The Smartpen costs about a $150 and all your notes and recordings can be quickly uploaded to your computer. Now that's one "smart" pen. What's next for this new device? Some day the pen will store bus maps, books and even recipes.
HOW DOES IT WORK? The Smartpen is a pen and a computer that allows users to write, record audio, record what is written, and access that information in a unique way. Covering paper with a pattern of dots makes each location unique and recognizable by a tiny camera mounted in the pen. If reviewing notes taken during a lecture, a student could find a diagram he had made, then command the pen to play back what had been said while he was drawing that diagram. Because of the special paper, the camera is able to read where it is on the page and find the corresponding spot in the audio, making it easy to play it back.
AN AUDIO-TACTILE DISPLAY: Using the smart pen with a raised line drawing kit allows visually impaired and blind people a chance to interact with the diagrams and pictures so vital to learning science and math concepts. With the Smartpen, students can print dots onto thin plastic sheets that are used with a pad that creates a raised line when written on with a pen. A teacher could explain a concept while writing the accompanying diagrams on the pad, and then hand the pad and smart pen to the student. The student would then be able to touch the pad, tap the pen in a spot, and in an on-demand fashion, listen to the teacherýs explanation.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., contributed to the information contained in the video portion of this report
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.