Hands-free computing

I’ve just posted an article which takes a detailed look at the techniques I use to operate a computer without using my hands (because, of course, of my repetitive strain issues.) Specifically I focus on using the Dragon NaturallySpeaking product for voice dictation, and the FootTime foot mouse for mousing.

I also did a bit of research for the article and found a number of interesting products I was not aware of that can operate in conjunction with voice dictation and hands-free mice. There’s a product called ShowNumbers that will overlay a visual transparency on any area of an application that is clickable by mouse, and then assign the area a number. The result is that you can click a certain area by saying something like “click 32.” I also took a look at a number of alternative mouse tools, including one that tracks your eyeball movement. Finally, I have a section on the progress in the world of “brain powered” computing e.g. computer software that literally reads your mind, or more specifically your EEG waves.

Here’s a section discussing voice dictation.

Most people have an understanding of the basics of voice dictation software. You speak (into a microphone) and the words you say appear on the screen. You can also use your voice issue commands to open up particular files or programs, or even click a particular point on the screen via a grid tool that lets you hone in on a particular coordinate.

The voice dictation software I use is, without a doubt, the industry leader: Dragon NaturallySpeaking produced by Nuance. There are different products, but most people can get by with the two lower end options, now called “Home” and “Premium.” Home is about about a hundred bucks, Premium twice that. You can buy them online, or at your standard Best Buy type store. At the time of this writing, nuance is about to release version 11. I’m currently using version 9.5, because I have zero confidence in any software company’s ability to adequately test their product before they release it. (Plus, as you will read, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got.) I use the version for Windows, but they do have options for the Mac, of which I cannot claim to have any experience with.

Here’s a section discussing the foot mouse.

The bulk of my hands-free computing has been using voice dictation. However, as explained above, using voice dictation to navigate around and click buttons is cumbersome. I ended up buying a mouse controllable by foot to have an easier time mousing. The version I have — the FootTime mouse available from bilila.com ($149) — is a mouse slipper you wear on your right foot, accompanied by a plastic box with buttons. To move the mouse on the screen, you drag your mouse slipper across a giant mouse pad under your feet. To do mouse clicks, you click the buttons on the box with your left foot, a little bit like tapping the brake while driving.

I’ll probably add some demonstration videos in a week or so.

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