Scanning Wizard Web App

Koester Performance Research

KPR is empowering the severely disabled by helping them use a computer up to 170% faster.

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MESSA and its design logo are marks owned by Michigan Education Special Services Association, registered in the U.S.
The Scanning Wizard web app identifies the best configuration for a disabled person’s text-entry system, dramatically increasing their communication speed.

A need for speed, scope control(focus?), and a trusted partner.

People with severe physical impairments can find it very difficult to use a standard keyboard or mouse. Some operate a computer using only a single button or switch.

In these single-switch scanning systems, the computer cycles slowly through different choices. When it arrives at an option the user wants, they activate their switch. Text entry speeds at just one word/minute are common.

Koester Performance Research (KPR) develops tools that improve computer access for people with disabilities.

In 2014, Dr. Heidi Koester and a colleague devised a method for improving the text-entry speed of people who use single-switch scanners. With a grant from the NIH, Koester came to Atomic Object looking to develop a tool that would enable users across the globe to benefit from her findings.

Working closely together, Koester and the Atomic team developed Scanning Wizard, an elegant web app that guides single-switch users through a series of tasks designed to measure their response time and scanning effectiveness.

Scanning Wizard uses these tests to generate individually-tailored recommendations for each user’s system, including adjustments to their scan speed, delay, and keyboard layout. The system also supports double-switch users and people who use symbols other than letters in their scanning array.

Scanning Wizard allows users to create an online account and store their results, but also has an offline mode with robust local data storage. Health practitioners can use a special administrative version to manage data from multiple users.

Scanning Wizard has really exceeded my expectations. I went into the project with requirements but no real picture of what the end product would be like, and I came out with something that represents the project in a great way. Compared to other projects I’ve worked on, this app is the best designed—both the code and the visual design. It’s extremely polished.

Heidi Koester, Ph.D., President

Coordinating Stakeholders

In addition to team members Grand Rapids and Atomic Object, this project brought together lots of different groups. Having this many cooks in the kitchen required a lot of coordination and a complex project schedule that balanced several timelines and sets of constraints.
Recycling data from the GR Public Services Department
Dozens of vendors with rewards of various sizes, types, and durations — recruited and coordinated by Local First
The myGRcitypoints information website, created by The Image Shoppe

Technical Specs

Atomic designed the system architecture and wrote software and firmware for:

Custom Protocol
Reduces required bandwidth and handle collisions, allowing reliable transfer of a high volume of information through RF and cellular communications back to the data collection service.
Gateway Devices
Each is a Technologic TS 7800 single-board computer with a custom RF receiver. They run a combination of C and Ruby on an embedded Linux system.
Web App
A JRuby on Rails application using an Oracle database that deploys to IBM Websphere.

Results

  • An ongoing field study found that the Scanning Wizard helps single-switch users increase their text-entry speed by an average of 70% — with some users improving as much as 170%.
  • Scanning Wizard was designed so that Dr. Koester can edit the app’s code and adjust the algorithm, incorporating knowledge gathered during the field study.
Initial studies have shown that, by adjusting the settings to the user’s ability, you can boost their speed significantly. It’s a small population but a large potential impact.
Heidi Koester, Ph.D., President

Coordinating Stakeholders

In addition to team members Grand Rapids and Atomic Object, this project brought together lots of different groups. Having this many cooks in the kitchen required a lot of coordination and a complex project schedule that balanced several timelines and sets of constraints.
Recycling data from the GR Public Services Department
Dozens of vendors with rewards of various sizes, types, and durations — recruited and coordinated by Local First
The myGRcitypoints information website, created by The Image Shoppe

A Partnership with a Storybook Ending

The team’s careful project management, client communication, cutting-edge architecture, and cohesive design strategy helped the team ship the product on time and on budget.

Reflecting back on the multi-year, high-profile project, Robinson said Atomic helped his company arrive at a special moment in time.

“We'd never done anything this big. Ever,” he said. “We’re live across all the major pillars Atomic said they would deliver on. It was delivered on time, on budget, to expectation, live. Not three or four milestones late with people leaving and the platform half-baked and full of bugs.”

StoryLoom began open-beta in December 2022. A global launch is scheduled for the spring of 2023.

“We’ve been given a rare opportunity," said Robinson, "to find success by chasing opportunities Starship Enterprise-style: going where people aren’t—pushing boundaries.”

Atomic provided visual design and web app development for Scanning Wizard using Ember.js.

The Atomic Team

Here are some of our current Atoms who worked on this project. Click their photo to read their bios!

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Project domain(s)

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Industry

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Services provided

Software Product Design
User Research
Information Architecture
Interaction Design
Visual Design
Software Development
User Testing
Exploratory Testing
Deployment

Tools used

EmberJS
D3.js