17 June 2013

Adventures in Adaptive Technology

One thing I miss about my old day job is that my employer provided bleeding edge techie toys, and expected me to play with them. Indeed, it was part of my job description; how cool is that? They were mobile devices, mostly – laptops, smartphones, and the like. It’s coming up on four years now, but I’m still suffering withdrawal. When the pangs of deprivation get particularly intense, I’m likely to wind up on the ‘net, looking for new software. This frequently turns out to be a bad idea.

 Most recently, I found myself looking for a workable voice-recognition solution for Linux. I torture myself with this from time to time. If I could use voice recognition with Linux, I could ditch Windows, and I’d do it in a heartbeat.

 I didn’t find anything this time, either.

 Found this, though:
Enable Viacam (eViacam) is a mouse replacement software that moves the pointer as you move your head.
It works on standard PC equipped with a webcam. No additional hardware is required.
It's completely free, open source and easy to use!” 
 Too good to be true? One sure way to find out…

Well, no, apparently it’s not. I’ve been using ViVo Mouse, a commercial ($$$) head tracking software, for several years, so I’m familiar with the concept. I installed eViacam, just for grins, just to see how a free, open-source product would stack up against my $$$ ViVo Mouse. I was dubious; it didn’t have nearly as many settings and configuration options. You didn’t have to tell it how to find your WebCam, you didn’t have to do anything to get it to work with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, none of that. You just install it, and it’s supposed to work. Too good to be true, I’m thinkin’.

 Except it’s not.

 You just install it, and it works, pretty much. While I did tweak a couple of settings, it was more like adjusting preferences than making functional changes. One thing I could do in ViVo Mouse that was awkward in eViacam could be managed easily enough with a macro. And I will happily write a lot of macros for $$$.

So I’ve been using it ever since. It works at least as well as ViVo Mouse which, by the bye, hasn't released a software update in almost three years. If anything, I’d say it works a little better. So there you go.

If it seems like I failed to get myself into enough trouble this time, fear not. Those macros? I’ve been using AutoHotkey for a while and have largely come to terms with it, but I just found NatLink, and Vocola, and Unimacro… extensions to Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and extensions to the extensions. Beta versions! Life at the bleeding edge! This will probably turn out to be a bad idea.

 Fun though.


  1. Oh dear, I didn't understand 80% of what you wrote, but it sounded interesting. And potentially useful to me, as I use Linux as my OS. If/when the time comes when I can no longer type, will DragonNS work on Linux? And what about all the rest? You give me hope.

  2. I'm with Webster here! I don't understand a lot of what you wrote, but I'm happy you're so thrilled with it!

  3. I'm glad that you're a technological smarty-pants so that you can make this work. I've thought a lot about the Dragon Naturally Speaking and how tricky it must be revising thoughts.

    I'm not too straight-forward with my writing at the first stab. I seem to revise a lot. Then re-read and notice that whole words are missing or lately that I repeated phrases in the sentence. So, I'm impressed that your writing has such as natural flow to it. I'll think how did she do that? Did she have to go back verbally and revise it or...

    Too funny, kinda, about the open source vs. expensive head mouse.