Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Imagine Cup’s Tablet PC competition has me thinking

If only I was a student again. The things I could do. So many ideas are popping into my head for the Tablet PC accessibility category for this month’s Imagine Cup competition. In college I tried entering a couple of these types of design competitions. They weren’t for software, but were just as challenging nonetheless. My favorite was a chance to design a toy for Matel. If there had been one for developing a Microsoft Robot I know I would have entered that too :-).

The Tablet Accessibility competition has the goal to: “create a new education application that uses Tablet technology while expanding the possibilities about how a user interacts with the computer.”

Anyway, here are some ideas for Tablet accessibility that are bubbling up in my head:

* Adding speech is one challenge–not just to text, but to “describe” what ink looks like. I know this is challenging, but starting at the basics there might be some interesting possilibities here. Given some ink, say what it looks like. You could start with drawing properties and then progress into shapes and collections of shapes. Quite challenging, but it would be fun to work on. Sometimes, you know, it’s best to take on hard problems when you don’t know they can’t be done. This is one of those cases.

* The Math Input Panel in Windows 7 supports handwritten input, that’s not bad, but what if you have an existing or partial equation that you want to “fill out” with ink and have recognized? How might that be used in a classroom app to make it more accessible to students?

* Practice is the key to learning something, whether it’s learning how to drive, or learning how to write or even draw. Lots of tracing, recording, playback possibilities here, some that are very classic education based and some edutainment oriented.

These are just a couple thoughts. A brainstorming session would surely spawn a dozen other ideas. In fact, is there something like this online where students could gather online and brainstorm? Hmmm. Maybe there’s an accessibility twist here? Let’s see ink, a whiteboard, ….hmmm.

There are only a few days left in this round, so if you know of an enterprising student developers, pass this link along. Who knows if they might win. $8,000 doesn’t sound that shabby.

Remember round one of the competition ends this month, April 30th at 11:59 PM GMT.