Monday, September 20, 2010

Licking Alliens

This is distinctly weird. ’ve just spent ten minutes sticking my tongue out and licking aliens off my computer screen.
And there actually is a serious purpose to all of this.
I’ve been trying out some free accessibility software, “Camera Eyes” ( here, a 5MB download), which uses the webcam built into your laptop to track your head movement, and allows you to use head movement as a mouse substitute. The software is designed to allow users with limited or no movement below the neck to use a computer. The program comes with a training video game where you just have to put the cursor on top of random images of aliens, and they blow up. This is where I got the aliens.
Finally, to explain myself, when you first start the software it finds your webcam and asks you to highlight some facial feature which it will then track. I started out using the crossbar of my glasses, which worked fine, but it then occurred to me to try using the tip of my tongue as the feature for the web cam to track. The tip of your tongue works very well, the camera picks it up easily, and my response time for the program came down by about 40% (that’s edu-speak for “I was killing the aliens on average about 0.5 seconds sooner”). Just don’t try this with your laptop on the way to work, or it might have unintended consequences.

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