Computer input devices for those with limited or no arm mobility tend to come in the form of a screen that allows for selection of a letter. A puff or suck of air from one’s mouth is then used to select the character. While certainly better than nothing, one simply has to consider the last time that you input a password using a directional pad to get a rudimentary understanding of how inconvenient this is.
On the other hand, three input states — in this case taking the form of puff, suck, or neither — is enough to form Morse code characters, a communication system that pre-dates computers by roughly 100 years. To take advantage of this venerable input method, Ana Coda’s project uses a clever electromechanical device made out of a heavily modified film canister and IR emitters/detectors to sense puffs and sips.
The system has been prototyped on an Arduino Mega, and can be seen demonstrated in the video below, typing out “hello there” with decent speed. To make this a more viable input option, there are still several challenges, including switching to an Arduino Leonardo for direct computer interface.
The project is open source, and can be built for under $50, so hopefully we’ll see this advance to a usable device in the near future. Code for it can be found on GitHub.