Essistive Technologies develops effective and dignified assistive technologies for individuals with disabilities. Our first product, the Note-Taker, was created because I realized that no existing assistive technologies allowed individuals with limited vision, like myself, to view presentations and take notes in the same amount of time, with the same ease, as our fully-sighted peers. Determined to complete double majors in computer science and mathematics, but hindered by the lack of effective assistive technologies, I began building my own in 2007. My first design consisted of an off-the-shelf camcorder, two servomotors for aiming, and a clamp from Walmart. It required multiple wired connections, and was noisy enough that a professor once asked the class, “Is someone drilling?”
Although kludgy, the first prototype showed a great deal of promise. Enough so that the National Science Foundation provided funding for the development of additional designs, all of which took place at Arizona State University’s Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing, a research lab that I initially volunteered at as an undergrad.
Among the prototypes we developed was the “Skippy Cam,” so-named because the camera was enclosed by a spray-painted jar of Skippy Peanut Butter! Next came our third-generation prototype which traded out the peanut butter for a designer’s touch and consequently won multiple international awards. Unfortunately, despite having completed a number of promising tests with low-vision users in the lab, it was evident that none of the prototypes were sufficiently robust, reliable, portable or cost effective as to be made broadly available.
After graduating, I still lacked an assistive technology that would allow me to engage in lectures and presentations. Sure, I could have used one of the old prototypes, but I didn’t want to be soldering wires between classes! Similarly, I could have have asked each school or business to make everything accessible for me, but I strongly believe that assistive technologies should make environments accessible according to the needs of their users, without forcing them to rely on others.
Thus, I continued to work on more reliable, discreet, portable, and cost-effective designs. The result of that work, first made available to others in December, 2011, is the Note-Taker. I use it every day as part of my PhD studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Through Essistive, I also sell and support it so that other low-visions students and professionals can be successful in education and business. My user base is growing, and currently ranges from ages 7 to 51.
If you’re an individual with limited vision, or you know of or work with others that are, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding the Note-Taker. If you’d like to purchase the Note-Taker, click the “Buy Now” link at www.essistive.com. If you’re an organization or government entity with special purchasing or support requirements, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Essistive Technologies, Founder