Odyschift: Helping people select just about anything.

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Last November, the second series of MakeHealth prototyping sessions took place in Amsterdam. In these sessions we set out to see if we could develop meaningful bottom-up health-challenge solutions. Each week, several teams worked on finding these solution for a healthcare challenge. In each team at least one member had some kind of personal connection with the challenge at hand. The sessions have ended after november, but the teams haven’t been sitting still.

Team Odyschrift, initiated by Alle van Meeteren, is one of these teams, and since november the team members have been gradually improving the prototype. They are developing an interface through which a young girl with motor impairment can navigate and select different options in a way that fits her situation and motor skill. The girl in this case is Alle’s handicapped granddaughter.

When seeing how skilled she was in handling the joystick of her electric wheelchair, but also noticing how much trouble she had handeling keyboards and buttons, Alle started wondering if the joystick itself could serve as an input device for many more things. He envisions that just the joystick could later even be enough to enable her to actually write.

In the first prototype, the team is aiming to develop a ‘proof of concept’ by connecting the joystick based selection logic to a game of ‘connect four’. The joystick can be used to select in which of the six columns the next chip should be dropped. The challenge is to program and calibrate the joystick in such a way that it is responsive, but not too responsive because that could lead to incorrect selections. How long should the joystick be held in a certain direction before we conclude that a choice has been made? How do we communicate to the user when the section has been conformed? These questions ask for a careful balancing of the technology we choose, and the user’s motor skill and preferences. 

This project starts with the focus on one individual girl, being Alle’s granddaughter. However, it is easy to see how such a technology might also be relevant for others facing the similar physical challenges. The later goals indeed include being able to use the Odyschrift-logic for more elaborate choices like choosing letters of the alphabet to create words. But for now the team starts small and with limited choices. They set off to make a small difference for one person through a game of ‘connect four’. However, through a lot of work, and many hours of prototyping, this ‘difference for one’ might lead to a change for many.

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