Week 9: Final Project Plan

About the idea:

As a dyslexic, I have become increasingly frustrated with the general public’s understanding of dyslexia.  People often think that being dyslexic means that you read letters or words backwards and upside down or you have a low IQ because you are dyslexic.  I want to develop an experience that puts the user into a dyslexic’s shoes.  Of course, dyslexia is a complex learning disability that affects no two people the same way.  However, I hope to make an experience that highlights both the gifts and struggles people with dyslexia typically face.  

Dyslexia effects parts of your brain that process language and thus most dyslexics have difficultly decoding sounds and relating them to letters.  This can slow down their reading rate and make spelling a challenge.  In order for others to experience this language processing barrier, I would like to build my own visual alphabet for any user to learn and then to spell words.  The barrier between the user and this new alphabet will hopefully mimic the barrier dyslexics face while learning the real alphabet.  I want to use elements which tell a story about dyslexia beyond creating this message through the mimicked barrier.  One way I would like to do this is through the development of my alphabet.  I would like the new alphabet to be made out of sound graphs.  Each letter will be represented by a different sound wave graph.  I want this visual alphabet to have patterns that people can recognize while they learn it.  Generally, dyslexic’s have good visual processing skills and thus excel at pattern recognition.  Thus, dyslexics may have an easier time learning the alphabet that others.  The alphabet itself, is a representation of the exact challenge that dyslexics face.  Sound processing is the origin of all the other effects of dyslexia, and thus this project will use a visual representation of those sounds.

How it will work:

Here is how I imagine this project will work.  First there will be an alphabet like the one represented in Figure 1.  The letter “A” will be represented by one unique sound graph, while the letter “B” will be represented by another sound graph, etc.

  Figure 1 : Alphabet

Figure 1: Alphabet

Each of these “letters” will be printed onto a physical disk, called letter coins (Figure 2).

  Figure 2 : Letter Coins

Figure 2: Letter Coins

The final interaction will look something like Figure 3.  There will be two boards.  One which helps you learn the letters through sounds and the other which helps you write words using the letters.

  Figure 3 : General Setup

Figure 3: General Setup

I imagine the letter coins being scattered on a table randomly.  The user will put on the headphones associated with the learning board.  When the user places a letter coin in the designated spot on the learning board, the name and sound of the letter will play through the headphones.  This is how the user would learn the alphabet.  Once the user is ready to make a word, they can place the letter coins on the writing board.  When they are ready to input it into the system, they will press a “ready” button and the word that they made will be displayed on the screen in both the new and real alphabet.  This interaction may look like Figure 4 in the end.  Perhaps, each word entry will enter into a library of words and all the previous word entries will be represented in a graphic similar to this one.

  Figure 4 : General Interaction Result Example

Figure 4: General Interaction Result Example

Questions I still have:

Before I begin building this project, I need to identify solutions to two main problems.  First of all, I need to understand different ways to visualize sound with a graph and find a method which develops unique graphs for each letter.  I would like to look at amplitude, tone, pitch, and other sound elements and determine which graph will be the best to use for this application.  Another technical problem which I need to solve is how the project will identify each coin that is placed on the boards as a letter and send that information to the computer and/or the headphones.  I am thinking of using a sensor to identify a unique color on each letter coin.  When a coin is placed on a circle, the sensor detects its unique color and tells the computer or headphones to display or play the corresponding letter.  Perhaps with some research, I will think of other ways to send this information using the coins. 

Project Process Goals:

  1. Identify and test coin connection solution

  2. Identify alphabet mapping method

  3. create visual alphabet

  4. fabricate letter coins (laser cut and etch on alphabet)

  5. Test coins with sensor and serial communication

  6. fabricate learn and write panels (laser cut and etch labels)

  7. connect physical and computational pieces

  8. create visual representation of the catalog of words created by users

Likely Materials:

  • Arduino

  • computer for serial communication

  • monitor for display

  • headphones

  • wood for letter coins and top panels

  • two wood boxes

  • two panel mount buttons

  • sensor (maybe color sensor?)