Great News! Ablenet has open-sourced the IntelliKeys drivers!
Thousands of people use the IntelliKeys programmable USB keyboards to access their computers, communicate, and even speak with text-to-speech. Recently Ablenet (who now owns the IntelliTools products) decided not to continue producing them.
Thankfully, they have chosen to Open Source the drivers. This is a huge decision, and we want to do everything we can to make that decision a winning one. So, we’re looking for some Makers to help port the drivers to Windows 10 & the latest OS/X and perhaps rework the firmware to make the devices more flexible and cross-platform
Live Teardown of IntelliKeys
To that end, Micah Elizabeth Scott (aka “@scanlime” on Twitter & YouTube) and Bill Binko from ATMakers tore into two keyboards and the source code to see where we stand in terms of hardware, software and approach. You can watch along here:
Where we stand now
After the teardown, we’ve learned a few important things:
The device uses a Cypress 8051-based microcontroller with 8K of non-volatile memory. This means we probably have enough room to store true HID-keyboard code plus overlay data directly on the device
The hardware is simple and sturdy with a grid-based membrane that is polled using a some very retro Flip-Flop chips (very old-school). This approach can be used going forward.
The device does advertise itself as an HID-compliant keyboard, but in reality it does not actually send HID keystrokes. It send proprietary commands that the Windows driver then maps to keystrokes using the overlay data. This is a simplistic approach that can be improved upon.
The current drivers can probably be tweaked to run on Windows 10 & the latest OS/X, and we will make that effort.
We will also attempt a re-write of the firmware and overlay management code to work in a cross-platform, standards-compliant way.
Where to learn more
To learn more about the IntelliKeys Open Source initiative, please check out:
Thank you to all the Assistive Technology vendors out there: the devices you create make everyday activities possible for AT Users every day!
We’d love to work with you to make your products and policies more Maker-Friendly. To that end, we’ve asked our community of AT Users, Practitioners, Makers and Care-Givers to share their challenges using Assistive Technology products.
We then tried to rework it into a more positive “How To” document that you can use as a guide. You can find the raw (constantly updated) Google Doc file here:
Miss Ella Hunt (5yo SMA type-1) is a bit of a celebrity in her Indiana town–she’s on the news quite a bit, and even went to Washington to testify before the FDA fighting to get the first effective SMA drug (Spinraza) for everyone who needs it.
But for us, she’s just a kid who need to get mobile, and we’re delighted with the progress this week! Here’s Ella’s first attempt at using her power chair with just two switches. More information about links to our in-progress follows the video:
To create the adapter, we used an Adafruit Feather Bluefruit M0 to take two input switches, apply a bit of logic and timing control and then control three outputs via a Relay Board that we designed and built. We’ll make a full guide for this project, but we probably need a waiver of liability form for this one (Erica Hunt, Ella’s mom took ownership of the device before we used it, and was awesome).
Here’s some background if you want to follow the project:
And here’s the final product in Noe and Pedro Ruiz’s Feather Box (adapted to fit) and all wired up to the power chair:
To follow along on future project like this, please join our ATMakers Facebook Group! At this time, most of the discussion and design work still works there and only solutions that are completed are documented here on the main site. We’re working on improving that – if you’d like to help, please sign up on the home page and let us know!
This project is a great way to get those idle 3D Printers running and make something useful for AT Users in your community!
We’ve designed 3D Printed Switches that you can easily download and assemble. This guide will show you how! If you’re an AT User or part of an AT team (parent, SLP, ATP, etc.), bring this guide to your local STEM or Robotics team and they’ll know how to put it to good use.
Positioning switches is critical for folks with severe and profound physical challenges. Getting the AT Switch “just right” reduces fatigue, increases accuracy, and makes communication and environmental control much more successful.
This project uses 3D Printed adapters to add a standard 1/4″-20 (pronounced “Quarter-Twenty”) camera mount to common AT Switches. This is a great project for STEM programs that have an idle 3D Printer and need service hours and is a huge improvement for AT Switch users.