[aarontech] The Hatricks Device

  • From: "valiant" <valiant@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <aarontech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 7 Jun 2007 00:13:51 -0400

Attached is a new article that will go up on my website when I get
permission to.
I couldn't wait to have you guys read it, so I went ahead and forwarded it,
and we'll make like I'm waiting patiently for the permission request, which
I sent to them like... uh, 3 weeks ago. grins
Save that attachment somewhere and double click it, it's a typical html web
page, not a virus, haha. The article is long and I worked long and hard on
Heh, I'd love to know what you guys think about the hatricks device, I'm
pretty excited about it. So you'll know while you're getting read to read
it, it's something that might help blind people use something similar to a
mouse on a computer, and a crap load of other stuff for good measure.


Have A Nice Day from Aaron T. Spears (Valiant)!

my email address:  <mailto:valiant@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> valiant@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
click here to send

AIM: computeruser89 
MSN IM: a1t2s3_89@xxxxxxxxxxx

Click here to Visit  <http://www.aarontech.randylaptop.com/> aarontech:

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Title: aarontech -- Issue4: The Hatricks Device
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I got to go on a trip and play around with the Hatricks device today. I liked it so much that I am writing an article on it's promises. I'm not writing it because who ever develops the device asked me to, but because I want people to know about this fairly advanced and new technology that promises to make a revolutionary change and improvement to the blind community.

The Hatricks device is being used, in this case, to attempt to give something of a 3d object for a blind person to explore. It is driven by a myriad of software written in c++, and uses something that looks a little bit like a robotic arm with a fat pen on the end of it to let a person feel what is being displayed on the screen in the software. When I got to fiddle with one of them today, I was able to learn quickly how to feel my virtual environment and locate the sun. I was able to draw a picture on the face of that sun, and I was able to drag other planets from that sun and place them in orbit around it. I explored the surface of mount St. Helens, feeling the crater in the middle of it, and how steep the sides were. I was able to experience the gravity differences on multiple planets. I was able to make objects move around on the computer screen, much like drag and drop with a standard every day mouse. From my short session with the device today, I fell deeply in love with it, and I'm positive it will become an invaluable piece of adaptive equipment for blind individuals, both in education stages, as well as in productive stages of their lives.

The hardware part of the Hatricks device, the most important, is similar to a robotic arm. It has a round bass. This bass can be spun clockwise or counter clockwise on top of the device. On the bass, there is another joint, that allows the arm attached to it to be raised up and down. So far, we're able to move from side to side, and up and down. In addition to that, however, the arm has an elbow that bends, allowing the user of the Hatricks to move toward the device, away from themselves, or away from the device, toward themselves. Now we are able to grab hold of the pen that is attached with free movement to the end of that arm, and move the pin in a limited but free 3d environment. I say limited because obviously we can't move farther than the arm of the device is able to go. I found the pen comfortable and soft, allowing me to hold on it for quite a while, and to explore my environment without becoming tired. The pen was stored, sort of, in a hold on the front of the bass of the device. After the software was ready to go, I pulled the pin out of the hole and began to move the pin around, on it's arm of course. The more I think about it, the more it makes since to say it is similar to a robotic arm. The only difference was that in most situations, I was moving the arm, and it was being aware of where I moved it, and using force feedback to stop me from moving it where there was supposed to be a virtual object in my 3d environment.

The first thing I played with was an open space with a sun right square in the middle. This is to say, halfway from top to bottom, left to right, and front to back. I found it quickly by moving my pin on it's arm around until I met a spongy resistance in the arm, not to mention a soft but audible grinding noise. I then began to explore the surface I had just hit with my pin, moving it up and down away from the surface of the table and back down to it again. I discovered the circular curve of the sun. I was actually able to push the pin away from me, sliding over the surface of the sun, until the device let me know that I was moving around the sun behind it, on it's far side from me. I kept my pin against this virtual object, and traced it carefully, all the way around. I did find that the device presented this virtual device like a ball hovering in thin air. I could move my pen on it's robotic arm anywhere with ease, that is to say, within the limit of the arm's capability, but when I hit the 3d sun in the middle of my virtual 3d environment, the pin stopped moving. I could move my pin around that sun, able to feel bumps and everything on that sun, exploring the surface of it by the behavior of my pin on it's robotic arm. I went behind it, in front of it, that is to say between the virtual sun and me, to the right of it, left, under it, etc. I got my pin against the back side of the sun and pulled it gently toward me, moving it up and down and did indeed discover that the back side of the sun was curved as well.

I was pretty impressed with the drawing application that has been created for the Hatricks device. Using the same sun I mentioned above, I was able to draw a nose on the surface of that sun (completely by accident, but I did it), by moving the pin around the sun until the pin was between the virtual sun and me. I then moved the pin away from me, toward the virtual sun, until I met resistance. I explored the sun a bit, and then placed a gentle pressure on the pin, moving it on the sun. I met resistance as I moved the pin, and the graphical image of my virtual sun on the computer screen displayed marks where I made dents in my virtual sun. I was able to return to places where I had drawn, and in deed there were still dents in my virtual sun where I had just drawn. I even put the pin on the top of the sun and pushed it downward, toward the surface of the table on which the device was sitting. This drilled a hole right through the sun. The most amazing was the sheer resistance I met when doing this. The Hatricks device protested a little more audibly now than it did before, and I wasn't able to move the pin very quickly. The realistic feel of this activity was amazing. The drawing utility has unbelievable potential for blind computer users.

The next activity I played with was one where I grabbed hold of objects and drug them away from the sun, placing them where they could orbit around the sun. I located the sun, and while pressing a conveniently located button on the pin, pulled the pin away from the sun again. I met realistic resistance as I pulled the pin away from the sun, and when I let go of the button, that resistance stopped, and my new virtual planet was there, along with the sun. I see true potential for this activity as well.

One of the coolest activities I participated in was actually grabbing hold of existing virtual objects in my virtual 3d environment and just moving them. It was a weird sensation. I could locate an object, and while pushing that button again, I could move the pin in a quick arc, and feel the pin want to continue, like I had just swung a ball on a string or something. It was unbelievable.

The next activity was the exploring of mount St. Helens. Accompanied with this activity was a midi organ or something up that alley sounding over the laptop computer's speakers, being controlled by the software that was running the Hatricks device. This organ increased in pitch as my altitude increased, and likewise it decreased in pitch as my altitude decreased. I didn't have a free 3d environment this time. My pin was always stuck to the mountain as I explored it. The purpose of this was to allow me to better feel the bumps on the mountain. It was facing me. That's to say, I was, in fact, looking straight down into the crater on the pentacle of the mountain. I do believe this is often called a "Arial view". Realize that my virtual object was being displayed visually on the laptop's screen, in addition to doing a very good job of letting me feel the virtual object with the Hatricks device. If I were to move my pen to the right, up, down, or to the left, I would feel the pin going away from me, down the sides of the mountain. The experience was in deed a bumpy one, and the pitch of the organ rewarded me with descending tones as I got closer to the surface of earth. I traced the bottom of the mountain, and pulled my pin up the other side of the mountain, listening to the mesmerizing organ increasing it's pitch as I got my altitude up into the thousands. I was able to move over the top, and feel the pin fall down inside the volcanic crater at the pentacle of the mountain. This is going to be a brilliant education tool for students and adults alike who are not able to see a computer screen.

An interesting activity I tried out was one that showed me, rather effectively, the gravitational differences of different planets. I'm sure this activity can open doors for future applications that will allow people to experiment with the weight of objects as well, but for this exercise I tried out how heavy my pin was on several planets, including earth and Jupiter. I pressed the same button I was using earlier to pick up objects, and it advanced to a different planet each time I pressed it. I started on earth. When the software loaded up, my pin jerked in my hand a little, and actually felt like it wanted to go downward and give the table on which the device was sitting a good poke. I was surprised, and moved the pin around, immediately discovering that I was in a virtual 3d box. The back side of this box had a rough texture, making the pin vibrate gently as I rubbed it over the back of the box. The sides and top were smooth, however. My pin resisted, wanting me to let it go down and poke the table, you might say, everywhere I put it. I pushed that button on the pin and got a good thrill of surprise as the pin released it's weight on my hand all of a sudden, putting me on a planet with very low gravity. I can't remember which one that was so I won't say so here. I explored the environment and discovered that I was still in what I could call a "gravity box". I pushed that button again, and the device darn near about took itself away from me, as it demonstrated to me the sheer weight one experiences on Jupiter. It really took effort to keep that pin off the table now, but I was able to look at my box again, before pressing the button and exploring Murcury, one of the lowest gravity planets. I see lots of doors that could be opened for projects like this one.

I spoke animatedly with the developer of some or all of the software being used with the Hatricks device for this purpose, and discovered that in the few cases where it spoke messages to me using the laptop's speakers, it was using pre-generated audio files to speak to me, do to the fact that the application itself requires so much processing power that it's not able to run a SAPI5 giant while powering the Hatricks device. I suggested trying a weaker SAPI5 voice. We discussed why the pin refused to leave the surface of mount St. Helens when I explored it from my Arial view, and was told that it was so that I would be more sure to feel the bumps and indentions in the land. I suggested that their be an option in which this could be disabled, since a blind person is naturally used to being excellent at pressing objects against other objects to feel their surfaces (and trust me, virtual objects being artificially generated by the Hatricks device are so amazingly similar to the real life experience of feeling an object with something other than your fingers that it's scary), and may actually be better at understanding the surface while being aloud to move our pin away from the surface. In addition to all that, I discussed with them the possibility of using the Hatricks device as an adaptive mouse for a blind person, showing us buttons, graphics, and what not on our computer screen just like it showed the graphics in it's own software as virtual 3d objects. It would be capable of moving the pointer, and we would be able to poke a virtual button, or what ever, with our pen to click it. Now that's what I mean when I say this has amazing promises for the blind community!

This document was completed on Friday, May 25, 2007 at 11:54 AM by Aaron T. Spears

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