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What if all software was open source? A code to unlock the desktop
Date:3/30/2010

er for people with muscular dystrophy, Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy or other motor-control disabilities. One such tool, the bubble cursor, highlights the button closest to it, making it easier for people with disabilities to click a button without having to hit it dead on. Fogarty and Dixon show the first implementation of a bubble cursor in various commercial applications.

"The human-computer interaction community has done 30 years of research on how to make computers more accessible to people with disabilities. But no one change is perfect for everybody," Fogarty said. "That's why you don't see these tools out there."

His research allows people to personalize programs based on their needs.

The UW tool, named Prefab, takes advantage of the fact that almost all displays are made from prefabricated blocks of code such as buttons, sliders, check boxes and drop-down menus. Prefab looks for those blocks as many as 20 times per second and alters their behavior.

The researchers are continuing to develop Prefab and are exploring options for commercialization.

Prefab unlocks previously inaccessible interfaces, allowing people to add the same usability tool to all the applications they run on their desktop. The system could translate a program's interface into a different language, or reorder menus to bump up favorite commands.

The authors hope Prefab will spur development of new innovations.

"If you come up with a new technology, too often it's evaluated in a test environment," Fogarty said. "This lets researchers put it into practice in something real, like Photoshop or iTunes."

Prefab can also produce more advanced effects. One demonstration that will be presented at the conference creates multiple previews of a single image in Photoshop. Behind the scenes, Prefab moves the sliders to different points, captures the output and then displays all of them on a single screen. This could save time by showing a range of effects the use
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Contact: Hannah Hickey
hickeyh@uw.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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