Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Apple's Ipad has found a new use that nobody would have expected.


Image Credit: Apple Canada.
In keeping up with our current theme of technology assisting people, a recent article in the New York Times talked about something that I never expected would occur out of a fancy gadget that's primarily used to hold up other laptops or play games where you bombard houses with penguins. But it seems that Apple`s Ipad is useful as a device to assist the disabled! Who would've thought!

Those with severe motorneurological conditions like Huntington's disease or cerebral palsy are essentially confined to wheelchairs, ventilators and slew of other mechanical devices, and medications. It's not an easy life, you can read about specific children with these diseases in the NY Times article below, but the Ipad may be making their lives a little bit easier. Technology can play a big part in helping with communication, something that people (especially children) with these conditions are unable to do effectively.

The main benefit of having the Ipad is as a therapeutic tool. With a very easy-to-use touch screen and apps for nearly everything it allows browsing, interaction, and most importantly learning. When unable to maneuver even a laptop, efficient motion sensing controls are a must in an assisted device. After trying out the Ipad myself, this seems to be its best feature, it has nearly mastered the whole touchscreen interface. Very little pressure and movement is required to use it, something which would definitely benefit someone unable to move more than their finger. The other main benefits seem to be attained through the Ipad's many apps. Apps that help children learn math for example are an excellent developmental learning tool, something that could be quite difficult with children that have learning disorders like autism. Internet browsing as well could definitely help with long stays in hospital environments for anyone in general, not just the disabled. Imagine being confined to a hospital bed for months at a time with nothing to do, now imagine that with full internet access.

It's quite odd, because for all intents and purposes the Ipad is not the most unique device. It's essentially an enlarged Iphone 4 blended with some features of a common laptop, yet it may one day be a necessary contributor to assisting others that cannot assist themselves. The reason this story attracted my attention is the simplicity of it all; nothing was modified or changed, no special tools had to be developed, all that needed to be done was find a new use for an old tool, a readaptation of a social / work tool to a new task. I'm curious to see how this will play out in the future and how common place they'll be in therapy and households for the disabled. I'm even more curious to see the kind of apps that might be developed specifically with full-access in mind. And due to the iOS development platform this may allow practically anyone to start development on these programs. Who knows, the next big thing in mobile app development might be finding a tool to best assist those with handicaps? It sure beats throwing penguins, that's for sure.

Read the inspirational article at the NY Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/nyregion/31owen.html?_r=2

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