Tampa, Florida

Giving Disabled Veterans a Voice

Michael Buckley, co-director of the UB Center for Socially Relevant Computing, discusses how computer science and engineering students from UB are changing the world.

“This is the most meaningful computer science project I have ever done. I've never worked on software that would help people out, so this was interesting and new. It's not just going to sit in some university database. It's going to be used out there.”
Praneeta Prakash
Master’s student in computer science

Computer science might not be the obvious major for students looking to change the world. But UB’s Center for Socially Relevant Computing is proving that programming can translate into compassion.

In partnership with Buffalo-based Applied Sciences Group, the center’s students and faculty are developing a suite of communication devices for disabled veterans in Tampa, Fla. who have lost their ability to speak.

The products include Omniswitch, software that four computer engineering undergraduates designed in a class devoted to solving real-world problems. Omniswitch enables quadriplegics to type letters, surf the Web, listen to music and play computer games using a single button or switch.

A second UB team, this one comprising two graduate students, created a “button builder” that enables patients to communicate by pressing buttons on a computer screen that prompt the computer to speak, type, open email or complete tasks such as controlling the lights or TV via their computer

Through Applied Sciences Group, which is delivering the software to the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa, the students’ work is helping veterans reconnect with the world.

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