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Archive for March 30th, 2016

Reader questions: Attempt #2

March 30th, 2016 | Category: Life,Opinions,Thoughts on Technology

A tech-savvy reader, Bill, asked:

Hi Michael,
Since you asked, I do have a question for you, one that does try to leverage your unique situation – I hope it’s not too personal…

I’m working to try to introduce Assistive Technology folks to their local Robotics & STEM groups. I’ve noticed as I represent LessonPix at AT conferences that many of the technologies that are very expensive and hard to get in the AT world are downright cheap & available in the Maker world and I’d like to help fix that.

So, here’s the question: what are the few pieces of technology that have been the most enabling for you. I’ve made the argument that a device like a switch interface (that takes a switch and controls a keyboard/mouse) is HUGE in that it gets the user’s input into software where so many things are possible. But what else are the things you’d focus on? Would it be notification (doorbell/phone), outbound alerts, home automation?

If you had a team of motivated (but relatively inexperienced) engineers that could help you, what would you ask them to first?

I look forward to your answers!

Way back in the early 2000s there was a company that made a USB IR Remote for OS X called, the ZephIR. I still have my ZephIR, it’s a spectacular device, and it still works after all these years to control my HD TV, Apple TV, surround sound, all from my Mac. Unfortunately, the folks who made the ZephIR went under, and the ZephIR faded into obscurity. Aside from my ZephIR, I don’t know of many others in use out in the wild, and I’ve researched it. I also haven’t found any available for purchase, anywhere. Regardless, the ZephIR is rather long in the tooth, not so much hardware-wise, but its software is quite in need of a lot of love. Its database of remotes is getting really outdated, so you can pretty much forget controlling 4K tvs, current audio equipment… I rigged an Apple TV 4 to work, but it took some doing.

So, if I had my own team of plucky engineers, I’d first want to create a modern, elegant USB IR Remote for OS X, so that people with disabilities could control their home theaters, one area in which Mac users are sorely lacking. It wouldn’t just benefit the disabled, but anybody busy on their Mac who’d rather change their tv channel or crank up the volume on their home audio system without digging around for clunky hardware remotes.

Ultimately, I see the Apple TV becoming the hub for Home Automation… climate control, lighting, security systems, the works. Therefore, true access to the Apple TV will mean access to so much more.

Still, the USB IR Remote would come first.