Voice Instruments is an open source interface designed for speaking numeric values and service messages to meet the needs of people unable to read or in contexts where it is uncomfortable to use the display to read values on a monitor. The project was accelerated during spring and summer 2017 in Milan, Italy and it is still running and evolving with the support of WeMake and its community.
This case study is part of a report we published in April 2018, exploring how “super nodes” support DSI initiatives to grow and scale. You can read the full report here.
Super node: WeMake
Issue to be resolved
Giulio Berretta is a teacher of scientific topics (chemistry, physics, electronics) often working in a the school laboratory, where he ran into difficulties in the use of measurement tools. Having already created objects for his personal use such as a vibrating watch as well as having participated in some projects at the university where he followed a course on exploring electronics applied to medical science, Giulio decided to create a speaking measurement device. He started with the creation of a pH-meter that can be used by blind people, as at the moment there are no such tools available for purchase.
During the opencare Maker in Residence programme Giulio, together with WeMake staff and makers, produced the first prototype of the speaking pH-meter according to the requirements that were defined at the beginning. In addition, two complete guideline libraries were developed in order to read numeric values and service messages, and in order to function with two of the most common audio modules. The algorithm that has been used to read the values, however, could function with any other module.
In order to select the most suitable components for the first prototype of the speaking pH meter, we conducted a test project and subsequently a market research. Based on this we designed the printed circuit board (PCB) and a case that could contain the PCB itself and its various components.
Role of the super node
WeMake organized the acceleration programme to support care projects during a period from March to December 2017. The opencare Maker in Residence (opencare MIR) is the first edition of a special residency programme organized by WeMake, as part of the opencare European project. It provided support, assistance, funding and acceleration to Makers – from all over the world – interested in developing / validating / iterating an open source project in the health and care field.
This special edition was structured in order to create an active and participatory link between online and offline dimensions. While learning from experiences all around the world, the teams had the chance to use tools, machines and materials, and collaborate with an active local community.
Voice Instruments became an open source vocalizer which can be associated with various instruments to be used by visually impaired or people with the need of speaking data usually written on a display. After creating a talking pH-meter Giulio realized that in addition to a pH-meter it was possible to develop other measuring instruments vocalising data with the same approach adopted in the previous version.
Voice Instruments is quickly improving, thanks to all the engagement experiences that Giulio has been involved into and to the interest of the community.
In the next months the project is going to be implemented to become a kit. Currently these numeric values are read by this interface in Italian language. Future developments of this project, however, involve using innovative components, adding support for foreign languages and, possibly, realizing a real speech synthesis system, based on a micro controller.
This project confirmed us that a lot of people can be empowered to optimise their own personal solutions in order to become product or services available to a wider public. Makerspaces and fablab are the places where this can happen.