Glenn Johnson, an electrical engineer, wanted to help his sister. She has cerebral palsy, which makes it difficult for her to manipulate modern electronics. Glenn’s goal was to modify a Kindle into a gadget his sister could use.
He took the controls from a children’s V.Reader, which has large controls that his sister could use easily. Each silicone button on the V.Reader has two wires attached. He routed those wires into the Kindle’s interface board. The result is a Kindle that can be manipulated by his sister. He calls his gadget the Frankenkindle.
This is what your completed Frankenkindle will look like.
To program the Teensy++ board, you'll need the Arduino software, as well as a utility to program the Teensy itself.
Nugent's comment points out a related, and large, emerging design opportunity. Here we have a design aimed at supporting better usability for differently abled people. At the same time, we have an aging population of baby boomers, many of whom are technologically literate. But as they (we) continue to age, it will become more difficult to navigate small type and small buttons. So there will be a big market for designs with user interfaces amenable to older people. Something to think about for the Amazons of the world. Maybe instead of broadening your SKUs with devices with slightly different feature sets, the smarter way to go would be different modes of UI, for differently abled user cohorts.
Getting into the Kindle and finding the correct connections was quite a task, I would immagine, since I don't think that they are giving away schematics to the Kindle just yet. So it was a great idea and a valuable project, thanks for sharing it with us.
I do wonder about the ultimate packaging, since open circuit boards just invite disasters. Making the package robust enough would probably be as big an effort as making the interface circuit, I would guess.
That's an ingenious adaptation of an existing product; well done.
I wonder, though, if one of the touch screen Kindles, which navigate by sliding a finger rather than poking at the small keyboard, would solve the problem for at least some, perhaps many, users with special needs.
It really would be good (at least for many of us) if Amazon built more capability into the USB connector on its Kindles.
Congrats on a practical, useful adaption of a product that solves an ergonomic anomoloy. It refreshing to see something other than turbo powered salad spinners and the like. This is an opportunity for Amazon to sell an auxillary control device that links to the Kindle via bluetooth or some other interface. Good job!
This solution points out the need for what, for want of a better phrase, I'd call consumer-ready large-type e-Readers. The Kindle actually does allow users to make the font larger, but I guess what I'm talking about is something that will be amenable to people who aren't quite so agile at using tiny keys, as is the case with the user for which this project was made.
Don't keep up on these devices enough to know, so have to ask: Where exactly, if at all, is Apple, et al on add-ons for disabled access to their products? To me, nowhere to be seen or priced out of the reach of most of us, thus the need for a homebuilt. Way to go Glenn!
This is a shameless plug for another Kindle reader solution for someone that cannot use their hands. PageBot is a Kindle accessory that allows one to turn pages by actuating a special switch. Since this is a product we couldn't hack into the Kindle, so we chose to make a universal mount with integrated mechanical actuators to actually press the next and previous page buttons -- short press for next and long press for previous. Yes, it seems silly to do it this way, but Amazon hasn't shown any interest in allowing/providing electronic access. Of course, if one has a computer with special access hardware they can use the free Kindle app.
This is a great story. The asthetics of the design might make the original Kindle designers and engineers cringe, but the sentiment and creativity is awesome. I wholeheartedly agree that Amazon and all of the other tablet vendors should do something, whether it's a special design or a special add-on, that can modify their products to better suit the needs of the visually impaired or others who might have trouble navigating traditional products.
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