There have been lots of changes recently on the realisepotential.org website thanks to the hard work of our web developer. For example, there is a lens to the Twitter feed (@ProjectREALISE) on the front page, and now our Google Discussion Group appears under the Community tab. If you haven’t visited the site for a while you should go and see what’s new.
The ATbar WordPress plugin was added to the REALISE market place but has yet to go through its full Openness Rating
Magnus has just updated his ATbar WordPress plugin so it now supports English, Arabic and the ATkit Marketplace toolbars. You just select the version you want and if it is a marketplace one, just paste the install link from the toolbar viewing page in the marketplace and it will load the toolbar just like the normal ATbar.
ATbar that was added to the REALISE site as an idea in 2011, has been rewritten to cope with English and Arabic languages thanks to Mada (Qatar Assistive Technology Center). There is a standard Lite version and a build your own version. Plugins can be added to an empty ATbar to offer users a customisable approach to enhanced reading of accessible web pages.
The standard ATbar Lite is a bookmark that can be dragged to the browser toolbar (or added to favorites). It has a set collection of plugins. Fonts can be enlarged, their style changed with increased line spacing to aid readability.
There is a spell checker and dictionary. Text to speech for reading selected text uses a female Acapela voice in both languages. The use of Readability reduces clutter on a web page and word prediction comes thanks to AItype. It works with all plain text edit boxes.
The entire look and feel of an accessible web page can be changed to offer high contrast mode with linear text or just colour changes to the text and links. The toolbar colour can be changed. It is possible to reset pages and exit the toolbar at anytime. When a new web page is loaded the toolbar has to be relaunched.
To customise your own ATbar go to the marketplace and install the required plugins – the toolbar can be saved and used in a similar way to the Lite version.
Marc has managed to put together all our comments about the REALISE Project and Mike has added a transcript so it can all be seen on Synote and you can add comments!
A big thank you also to Enid Bensa, Ross Gardler, Mike Wald, Andy Heath with his bike and Peter Cudd for sharing their thoughts on the subject of the REALISE market place that has now received further funding from Devices for Dignity
The REALISE market place has yet to be officially launched but we have some Google Analytics for the last month. Sadly an update to the REALISE code lost us the month of June when we would have had a considerable number of users as we had our Transferability workshop.
345 visits came from 14 countries/territories
- 124 absolute unique visitors
- 2,308 pageviews
- 6.69 average page views
- 00:04:41 Time on Site
- 28.41% new visits
The REALISE market place website has been updated with the home page offering a walk through of the process . The Help file has been made very visible on the right-hand side of the pages and the FAQs sorted into sections with additional information. Each section now has a description at the top.
We are making a help file for the website and would be grateful if you could possibly comment on the usefulness of this sample for interactions made on the REALISE market place
The layout will be changed, probably spread over a number of pages/sections and the images will be larger/more suitable sizes.
Using the REALISE Market Place
Anyone can browse, read about and learn more about the REALISE Market Place without registering on the site but it will not be possible to collaborate or add ideas.
You must be registered or sign in to submit an idea or manage projects. To register or sign in, select the relevant option at the top lefthand side of the screen. There is a Linkedin login option.
A unique user name and email address is required (an alternative display name can be used once registered) along with a suitable strength password.
Creating a new idea
To create an idea navigate to the Idea Lab. Type the name of the idea into the edit box and select submit to reach a page that requires a short overview of the idea. A more lengthy description can be added later.
Tags should also be chosen to aid future searches, along with a relevant category and an image if possible.
Your idea once submitted has a separate page. Here information and links are displayed and comments can be added by any user. To manage your idea simply select ‘Manage‘ on the Idea page.
Incubate an Idea
If you are ready to take your or anyone else’s idea further, select the idea from the Ideas Lab and then select ‘Incubate‘.
Ideas in the Incubator have a similar look and feel to those in the Ideas Lab – allowing users to add comments and see the incubated idea information.
Fill in the title and descriptive information as well as other items if you are managing the project for example the:
- Project URL
- Your community
- Tracking and bug fixes
- Repository URL
There is also the ‘Openness Rating‘ that can be completed to show how open a project is becoming. Mentors are on hand to help with this aspect and you can find them on the Community Page with a star by their name. An example of a project that has a mentor is ATbar.
Progressing an Incubated Idea to a Project
To turn an incubated idea into a project an Openness Rating of 75% or more is required. It is possible to continue to add to the Openness Rating at any time but it is essential that each section is saved as it is completed.
The openness rating was constructed by OSS Watch as discussed in their Software Sustainability Maturity Model, to ensure projects are as open as possible.
To move your project from the Incubator to the Projects Page select ‘Manage‘ and then at the bottom of the page select ‘Promote‘. This will create a Project.
The project page is much the same as the ideas and incubated ideas pages. Information about the project is displayed along with comments and links to those who are following its progress on the right hand side.
This last month has been very busy with new additions to the REALISE market place and discussions around the business case for open source AT illustrated in the two Powerpoint slides made by team member, Peter Cudd. The first looks at the idea of offering some sales, support and services as a way of sustaining a project with some research and development plus consultancy and the second slide shows the option of much more research and consultancy with some support and services, whereas the closed innovation usually depends on large sales and less on support and services.
There are several blogs on the subject for general open source software but rarely articles that relate to Assistive Technology that also discuss matters around the business case other than to say there are an increasing number of people who will need to use assistive technologies in the future.
However, one particular article written by Fernando Botelho (who works with groups in low income areas across the world) makes for an interesting read – “Open Source Software-Based Assistive Technologies“(download PDF) He comments that: “Ease of localization and low cost are the most widely mentioned reasons for choosing open source software solutions but they are not the most important ones. While the viability of localization for languages that are not very profitable would indeed be very difficult to replicate in closed source models, the cost of proprietary solutions can be made irrelevant in the short term through donations or substantial discounts. In this regard two important considerations come to mind: First, donations of proprietary assistive technology software are never made in a large enough volume to actually reach a large portion of the population that needs the technology; and second, governments, foundations, and NGOs need assurance that an investment made in training today will still be relevant in a decade or two and only open source models ensure that.”
One of the issues facing users of open source assistive technology nearer home is training and support for these products and it seems that there really needs to an increased amount of ‘awareness raising’ to fill the gap as an increasing number of open source assistive technologies come to market. We are beginning see these ideas turn to viable projects on the REALISE market place and this will be discussed at the JISC RSC Scotland NE Open Education event in Edinburgh on May 20th, 2011. Download or view the PowerPoint slides on SlideShare – Realise project introduction
Steve Lee and I attended a fascinating seminar day hosted by Toby Churchill Ltd – a company specialising in AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication). There were a series of very interesting talks and lots of networking moments. Meanwhile all the staff were amazingly modest about the fact that during the day the BBC were interviewing some of them, as a result of the company winning the 2011 Queen’s Award For Enterprise, International Trade.
David Collison as Chairman, accompanied his invitation to the day with a series of very apposite questions in relation to our project.
Q: Can these projects (AEGIS & REALISE) use the open source / free software model to avoid duplication and encourage innovation by creating new open standards which will be adopted by industry and seen as valuable by fund holders?
Q: Is it a case of formal standards or would frameworks or guidelines be more useful? Who would create and maintain formal standards?
One common problem with the use of AAC and AT technology is fitting the entire bundle into a single cohesive system for a user with complex needs, not just so that it all works but so that carers and professionals can quickly identify and contact the relevant support teams for each component in that system. It would seem intuitive that a set of standardised, reusable, components which can be selected and arranged to suit the needs of individuals would assist in such problems.
Q: Can industry and academic bodies co-operate in ways to ensure such a standard toolkit can exist at the design stage and would open standards aid or hinder such development?
Inclusive design is not about manufacturers conjuring a model user out of thin air and designing a single product to meet all the needs of that model as has been done in the past Manufacturers already aim, internally, to produce a range of products based on a common core and support the remodelling of those products to further widen the net. To reach the widest market of social need on the basis of inclusive design, a common core could be shared between manufacturers to create products which are versatile and adaptable, rapidly designed and mass market.
Q: Can this work in the AAC market? If not, why not?
Q: What might be the role for standards in defining the common core?
Whilst the open source development model clearly can and does work for software, questions remain about how such standards can be utilised for hardware without making costs prohibitive, especially in small scale, niche, markets like AAC/AT where new technology becomes a medical device with the associated regulatory burdens. There is, therefore, a risk that mainstream hardware supporting the standards-compliant software would make custom hardware even harder to produce.
Q: How are the problems of small scale / high cost production going to impact on the inclusive design of AAC devices? Which parts of AAC can go mainstream and how do manufacturers handle the transition?
With these thoughts in mind we had a series of talks that covered topics from the incubation of new technology in the AT Industry to user perceptions on communication aid design, inclusive design and designing AAC products in the commercial world. There was also a talk about developing language and communication strategies through AT which highlighted the issues around largely human issues rather than open innovation ones.
All the talks will be available online from Toby Churchill but what really came out during the discussions was how important the user is within the design process and the need for communication at all levels. Graham Pullin has a book out on the subject of ‘Design meets Disability‘ and discussed the concept of 6 speaking chairs of design in relation to speech and tone and the follow on with Speech Hedge.
One interesting example of crowd sourcing and sub-cultures was discussed – Kuler – people making a process open – openness in terms of inclusive design – kuler.adobe.com
Would this way of working be possible with AAC and Assistive Technology? Being Creative and sharing the results…
What is design? – “it is the combination of artifice with technology the intangible with the unintelligible.” according to David Bisset, Principal Design Consultant at Toby Churchill Ltd – he went on suggest that AAC design goals have these items in common…
- “Products must efficiently fulfil user need
- Need to be cost effective to make and maintain
- Must be reliable and appropriate
- Must provide value for money.
- Adaptable to different sets of needs.
- Cover as much of the user spectrum as is viable
- Keep life cycle costs as low as possible
- The USP should be clear and communicable
- Brand enhancing
- Clear IP ownership”
There followed an ever increasingly complex development process diagram! David then asked the question…
“Consumer products influence the AAC market – true or false?
- They do through user expectation – such as slim lightweight products, touch screen, chic,
- They make other technologies available so they can be incorporated in AAC devices
- Influence standards, app stores, social networks, etc.
Can consumer products work as AAC products?
- If they fulfil a need
- In conjunction.
It is about ‘Structural Deepening’
- Specialist domain knowledge drives technical innovation to improve products with a market niche
- If the niche is sufficiently specialised the products will take on a unique character for that market
- That leads to increasing technical complexity as new layers of function are added
In niches all these levels and layers add to the specialist domain knowledge
This is a self organising evolution – The niche becomes deeper -You end up with single companies controlling whole markets. Designing AAC products require deep domain knowledge.
Designing for AAC users – The designer can’t always assume the customer role. It may not be ethical to run user trials this makes it very hard to establins the right design choices – Appreciating the sensory motor constraints of the AAC iuser is difficult.
Comprehending how a user interface looks can be hard – Does open help?
- Open development works when the people that benefit from the software are the people that write it.
- This is not applicable in all domains
- The coincidence of skills is rare.
- It works well for defined generic technology like Bluetooth
- Not good for defined technologies
Standards and Approvals. – do we want them for AAC?
How do we make better products?
- Using better design processes
- Engaging with users
- Meeting new needs”
So much seems to have happened during the two days of meetings that it is going to be hard to put it into one blog so I am going to divide it up by topics with reflection on the discussions as I go. The delay in putting up the minutes has been due travelling to the USA in between and learning more about open innovation whilst at a disability conference.
Thursday 10th March began with Ross providing an overview of OSS Watch Openness Rating with a set of slides that included suggestions for how projects can be evaluated for their majurity. (Download PowerPoint slides titled Openness Rating as a Guide to Project Maturity)
This was incredibly helpful as it enabled us to discuss the various elements that needed to be in place in order to engage a community and provide sufficient information for a project to gain traction as well as possibly find a way to be sustainable.
This was followed by examples of how far three of us got along the route of openness using three different case studies.
- Peter – REALISE (the project market place) – new user /carer – Download PowerPoint slides titled ‘Mapping OR to RealiseThresholds.pptx’
Peter went through the whole process and was able to show the elements of the Openness Rating that would be important to a new comer to the site. It also enabled us to discuss the important areas that required more guidance as to what someone putting up a project might need. This was later illustrated when Garry Paxton (on the Advisory Group) began the process with ‘Picboard’ and sent us an e-mail with queries such as ‘needing more feedback’ and ‘where to go to next’? The Incubator has a number of full and basic requirements that still need to be added.
- EA – Atbar goes East – SME wishing to take it forward. Here the idea was that a company may take over the toolbar and wish to make money from it – which licence would be best? Once again the questions became more complex and it was clear we needed to add some items to the community and governance documentation to clarify items.
- Steve – MAAVIS – expert developer explained how he had taken the project through the process and how the community was now developing as can be seen from the MAAVIS website.
Steve explained how