iPads and iPods are noted as some of the most visually engaging devices in the mobile marketplace. This makes them ideally suited as an interface for operating electronic devices in and around the home. Loaded with a home control app (several are available), a user can view the current status of thermostats, A/V gear, motorized shades and more from anywhere and change those settings with a swipe of a finger. When you’re blind, visual indications like this are useless, but that doesn’t mean an iPad still can’t function as a tool for monitoring and managing a home.
Just ask Dale Pollak of Hinsdale, Ill. He’s been using an iPad to operate the lights, thermostats and A/V equipment in his 10,000-square-foot home for several months now. Instead looking at a menu of commands, he tracks his finger across the screen of the iPad and the device speaks to him. For example, if Dale’s finger brushes past a button that controls the kitchen lights, the iPad might say, “island lights, on, 50 percent.” From there, Dale can slide his finger up and down to alter the intensity level.
Control over a whole-house music system works the same way. The iPad might say, “library audio, FM Tuner, the lite 93.1, volume 39 percent” or “patio, music player, Pandora, Dave Matthews Radio” when Dale’s finger touches the music button. Then, Dale can move his finger to hear and find a new Pandora station, for example.
The technology is enabled by a special accessibility mode on the iPad. The custom electronics (CE) pros at MediaTech, St. Charles, Ill, designed an on-screen menu for the iPad that could leverage the technology for the purpose of controlling devices inside Dale’s home. The buttons, sliders and icons were laid out in a way that would allow a blind person to easily navigate his control options. Based on Dale’s finger swipes and presses, an AMX home control system carries out his commands. “Dale has gone from trying to navigate switches and buttons on the wall of his home by feel to having more control over everything than even the sighted members of his family have,” says Paul Faber, co-owner of MediaTech
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.