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PC-Based Environmental Control With Eventghost
Status: On hold, in design/planning
In the realm of Electronic Aids to Daily Living (EADL), Environmental Control Units (ECU) are systems that help people with disabilities to independently control a variety of devices such as lights, doors, heating/air conditioning, televisions, stereo systems, and telephones. Such systems often incorporate multiple access methods, and use infrared, BlueTooth, X-10, etc. to control devices. Some portable and relatively cheap systems, like the Mini Relax, take only a switch input and use infrared. The Sicare Standard and Light II are also fairly small, and function through voice commands. The most complex and versatile systems are PC-based, like the MediAssistant, which accepts a wide variety of inputs, and can control devices through many different communication protocols. The PEAC system is particularly versatile.
A PC-based system can also take advantage of a vast array of existing computer access methods, can often be updated to handle newer communication protocols, and can replace other devices by acting as the user's communication device and computer for work and entertainment.
Unfortunately, as is the case with most assistive technology, ECU systems are generally very expensive. The price of more complex systems may exceed $8,000 (USD). You can buy a very nice computer for a tenth of that, so if we can turn a basic computer into a functional ECU system, we can make it a realistic option for far more people. With the right software, we can interface a computer with nearly any access method, and with devices like:
Essentially, anything that can be controlled by a computer can be controlled by a person with disabilities, through whatever method he/she uses to access a computer.
While I haven't yet made a concrete decision on the best software for this purpose, I'm leaning toward Eventghost (which is intended for home theater PCs). Girder is supported by many devices, but can be expensive, while Eventghost is free and open source. AutoHotKey is extremely powerful, but complex to use, while Eventghost has a fairly simple GUI. Eventghost also includes a simple web server, which would allow remote control via the internet. I may yet change my mind, or find a better option. I'd love to see how other people approach this problem, and which tools they choose.
I am currently working on an Instructables instruction set, which will guide readers through the process of installing and configuring Eventghost for environmental control. It will be posted here when complete.
I have also explored free and open source AAC software, which could possibly be interfaced seamlessly with environmental control through the use of Eventghost's included web server. This will be the next step.
The end result of this project will be a method for building a fully functional ECU system from an inexpensive PC (possibly a PC or AAC device already owned by the user), which could be seamlessly integrated with the user's wheelchair, communication device, and computer access.
Copyright © 2012 Gavin Philips. All rights reserved.