Thursday, December 18, 2008

Project Possibility yields admirable results

I'm always excited when I see other people willing to develop technology because its needed not just to make money:

ONE computer program would allow vision-impaired shoppers to point their cellphones at supermarket shelves and hear descriptions of products and prices. Another would allow a physically disabled person to guide a computer mouse using brain waves and eye movements.

The two programs were among those created by eight groups of volunteers at a two-day software-writing competition this fall. The goal of the competition, sponsored by a nonprofit corporation, is to encourage new computer programs that help disabled people expand their capabilities.

The corporation, set up by computer science students and graduates at the University of Southern California, is named Project:Possibility. It grew out of an idea two years ago by Christopher Leung, then a master’s degree candidate in computer science and engineering at the university, who was working on a project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

The effort is centered at the University of Southern California and led by volunteers, including Ely Lerner, an information systems developer at Amgen Inc.; Elias Sayfi, a senior software engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and Stanley Lam, an undergraduate business student at the university.

The project also plans to create a worldwide open-source Web site on which disabled persons and software developers can collaborate on new ideas and add to existing programs.

“Imagine a specialist Facebook or MySpace-type social network in which users would be involved in designing the tools they want and need,” said Stephen A. Lee, a British software developer who operates and is a director of Project:Possibility.- New York Times
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