Perky Project

The Perky Project applies open source approaches to the challenge of providing accessible, convenient, and powerful personal computing. The project goals include:

Optimization for use by the blind has led to a number of unusual design decisions. For example:

  • pervasive, reliable support for audio output
  • tactile input (e.g., Perkins-style braille keyboard)
  • strong preference for text-based user interaction

Motivation

We believe that there is a need for a convenient, extensible, and inexpensive computing platform that is optimized for use by the blind. The platform should be usable on a range of personal computing devices, ranging from palmtops through laptops to desktops.

There are a number of portable computing devices that can be used by the blind. These include braille note takers, cell phones, laptop computers, and tablets. However, all of these fail at one or more of the following criteria:

  • chordable buttons for Braille, etc.
  • collaborative, open development model
  • convenient extension, maintenance, etc.
  • economical (e.g., under $100 in parts)
  • extended, "always on", self-powered use
  • inductive (wireless) charging
  • optimized for blind and visually disabled use
  • turnkey, "batteries included" operation
  • wide range of use cases and users

Status

We have created and tested a pair of early prototypes for the Perky Pup. They run a (slightly customized) copy of Raspbian and some custom support software (e.g., button-scanning, testing). The initial version of Perkian:

  • boots and runs without apparent problems
  • supports access via SSH, USB, and Wi-Fi
  • supports stereo output on a 3.5 mm jack
  • supports scanning of all 18 buttons

Versions

Our initial version of the computer, called the Perky Pup, is further optimized for portability and use "on the go". It is based on the Raspberry Pi Zero W, plus a bit of support hardware:

  • audio output circuit and jack
  • chordable 16-button keyboard
  • internal (limited use) battery

A follow-on version, called the Perky Pro, will use a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. It will be optimized for performance and convenient use as a desktop machine. So, it will have more amenities and processing power than the Perky Pup, at the expense of increased power consumption, size, and weight.

Both models will run Perkian, a version of the GNU/Linux operating system, that includes a substantial number of "perks" (blind-friendly additions). More generally, Perkian should run on most Raspberry Pi models, though some features (such as audio output and built-in, chordable buttons) may be missing.


This wiki page is maintained by Rich Morin, an independent consultant specializing in software design, development, and documentation. Please feel free to email comments, inquiries, suggestions, etc!

Topic revision: r32 - 11 Sep 2017, RichMorin
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