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Write Steady
For people with diseases like cerebral palsy or Parkinson’s, manipulating handheld computers can be tricky. Even if they manage to hold the matchstick-thin styluses and use them to form letters and numbers, the handwriting-recognition software can still translate their shaky strokes into typos. A new text-entry method called EdgeWrite could ease those frustrations. Developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the system lets the user create each letter or number by following the edges and diagonals of a square hole in a plastic template clamped over the handheld’s text input area. The edges provide stability, and unlike other input systems, such as PalmSource’s Graffiti, EdgeWrite does not depend on the precise path of the stylus. Instead, its software recognizes a character by the sequence of corners hit; it can even be adapted for use with joysticks, touch pads, or trackballs. EdgeWrite co-inventor Jacob Wobbrock, a PhD candidate in Carnegie’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, is currently providing the software and homemade plastic templates for free via his website; he hopes to find a commercial partner to bring the technology to a wider market.

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