Aphantasia is a condition where one does not possess a functioning mind's eye and cannot voluntarily visualize imagery. The phenomenon was first described by Francis Galton in 1880 but has since remained largely unstudied. Interest in the phenomenon renewed after the publication of a study in 2015 conducted by a team led by Professor Adam Zeman of the University of Exeter, which also coined the term aphantasia. Research on the condition is still scarce.
- "Aphantasia" | 2019-06-24 | 85 Upvotes 72 Comments
Blissymbols or Blissymbolics is a constructed language conceived as an ideographic writing system called Semantography consisting of several hundred basic symbols, each representing a concept, which can be composed together to generate new symbols that represent new concepts. Blissymbols differ from most of the world's major writing systems in that the characters do not correspond at all to the sounds of any spoken language.
Blissymbols was published by Charles K. Bliss in 1949 and found use in the education of people with communication difficulties.
The DataHand keyboard was introduced in 1995 by DataHand Systems, Inc. It was invented by Dale J. Retter and was produced by Industrial Innovations as early as 1992. The keyboard consists of two completely separate "keyboards", one for the left hand and one for the right, that are molded to rest the user's hands on. This allows the user to place each hand wherever it is most comfortable to them. Each finger activates five buttons, the four compass directions as well as down. The thumbs also have five buttons, one inside and two outside as well as up and down. The button modules in which the fingers rest are adjustable to best fit the user's hands—each side can be independently moved up and down, towards the palm or farther away.
This ergonomic layout allows for all typing to occur without any wrist motion, as well as without any finger extension. The keyboard layout is initially similar to a QWERTY keyboard, but the middle two columns of keys (i.e. H,Y,G...) have been delegated to sideways finger movements, and all of the keys outside of the main three rows are accessed through two additional modes, including a mode for mousing. There are three primary modes all together: letters, number and symbols, and function / mouse mode. Some practice is required. However, eventual typing speedups are possible.
Also of note is the button design—instead of being spring-loaded, the buttons are held in place with magnets and are activated using optical sensors. This was done in order to dramatically reduce the finger workload while optimizing tactile feedback.
This unconventional keyboard was seen in the Jodie Foster movie Contact (1997) as the pilot's controls for the futuristic spaceship; and the spy movie Stormbreaker (2006). The Industrial Innovations version was featured on the television series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. A black model is used by Agent Grasso while searching for Amanda Givens' Jeep in Shadow Conspiracy (1997), starring Charlie Sheen.
After the initial prototype was released in 1995, DataHand has released the Professional and Professional II with new bodies. The Professional II also has extended programming capabilities over the Professional, being able to record macros of keystrokes for convenient use.
DataHand Systems, Inc. announced in early 2008 that it was ceasing to market and sell its keyboards. The company web site states that due to supplier issues, the company will not sell the DataHand keyboard "until a new manufacturer can be identified". However, the company plans a final, limited production run to satisfy existing customers. In January 2009, the company's website started taking orders for a "limited number of new DataHand Pro II units".
Jack (died 1890) was a chacma baboon, who attained some fame for acting as an assistant to a disabled railway signalman in South Africa.
- "A baboon who acted as assistant to a disabled railway signalman in South Africa" | 2019-06-04 | 98 Upvotes 20 Comments
Laurence Kim Peek (November 11, 1951 – December 19, 2009) was an American savant. Known as a "megasavant", he had an exceptional memory, but he also experienced social difficulties, possibly resulting from a developmental disability related to congenital brain abnormalities. He was the inspiration for the autistic savant character Raymond Babbitt in the movie Rain Man. Although Peek was previously diagnosed with autism, it is now thought that he instead had FG syndrome.
- "Kim Peek" | 2019-10-13 | 125 Upvotes 49 Comments
The Optacon (OPtical to TActile CONverter) is an electromechanical device that enables blind people to read printed material that has not been transcribed into Braille. The device consists of two parts: a scanner which the user runs over the material to be read, and a finger pad which translates the words into vibrations felt on the finger tips. The Optacon was conceived by John Linvill, a professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, and developed with researchers at Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International). Telesensory Systems manufactured the device from 1971 until it was discontinued in 1996. Although effective once mastered, it was expensive and took many hours of training to reach competency. In 2005, TSI suddenly shut down. Employees were "walked out" of the building and lost accrued vacation time, medical insurance, and all benefits. Customers could not buy new machines or get existing machines fixed. Some work was done by other companies but no device with the versatility of the Optacon had been developed as of 2007. Many blind people continue to use their Optacons to this day. The Optacon offers capabilities that no other device offers including the ability to see a printed page or computer screen as it truly appears including drawings, typefaces, and specialized text layouts.
- "Optacon" | 2020-01-27 | 92 Upvotes 32 Comments