Use your iPad to control switch toys: Switchamajig!

Wouldn't it be great if your child or students could control switch-operated toys with the iPad?

Phil at PAW Solutions has come up with a very clever switch interface that works with your iPad. It allows children to control up to SIX switches or actions through one screen. Can you imagine the possibilities for fun play? It even lets your child steer...how cool is that!

Since so many of you have children who use iPads, I thought Phil's amazing app would have real interest. Be sure to check out the video he has provided. Here's his story...and a special discount for Adapting Creatively readers at the end!

* * * * * * * *

Thanks to Rose-Marie for inviting me to tell you how my own creative adapting turned into a new business.

I used to adapt toys back in college, so it was a bit surreal when I starting doing it for my own son, Jackson [editor's note: you will adore the clip of Jackson at the end of the video. Don't miss it!]. I wasn't trying to do a good deed or show off (although my wife was far more impressed than anyone in college ever was.) All that really mattered was that my little guy needed to have fun.

Having fun. Isn't that what being a kid is all about? My childhood memories are of running with the dog, building with Legos, and kicking a soccer ball around. My medical appointments were mercifully rare and tinged with anxiety and terror over the inevitable vaccination. But Jackson's childhood revolves around the medical profession: PT, OT, SLP, and flavors of MD I wish I'd never learned about. More interventions, assessments, and adaptations than I'd like, but letting nature take its course just isn't going to work, not for Jackson.

Once we did find time to play, we needed something to play with. I didn't like most switch-adapted toys; pressing one button was great for cause-and-effect, but Jackson needed more imaginative play. So we bought two switches and adapted a two-button RC truck. Jackson liked it. With two switches, he could drive it all over the living room. He took special delight in crashing it into the couch.

We also looked for creative solutions to help Jackson communicate. We convinced relatives to give him an iPad for his second birthday. Now you may think that a two year-old with disabilities would have trouble using such an advanced piece of technology, and you'd be right. He loved that it made fun noises and showed cool pictures as he rubbed his food-encrusted fingers over the touch screen, but he didn't seem to understand that he was in control of it. His frustration would build. And build. And build until we declared “no more iPad.” Then he would scream as only a two year-old can.

I decided to make the iPad control his truck, and built a box that received commands from the iPad and worked like four switches. The iPad shows buttons that, when touched, activate a toy. Suddenly all sorts of new toys were available to Jackson, from RC construction vehicles to flying fish balloons (I like remote controlled toys because they are designed to be fun when pressing buttons.) I showed it to Jackson's therapists and teachers, and from their reactions decided I was on to something. I decided to turn my project into a product, and recently started selling it as the Switchamajig Controller.


Along the way, I found new uses for Switchamajig. There's an RC car that needs someone to hold down two buttons to turn, and the RC fish balloon's tail control requires toggling between two switches. Even with the iPad, Jackson couldn't control either one, so I added special buttons that he can press to steer the car
The Switchamajig includes a free iPad app for operating up to 6 switches
from a single iPad. This allows kids to determine a lot of movement for their toys.

 
I've spent my career in silicon valley working on cool technology. But there's nothing cooler than unlocking some of the joy of childhood for my son and other children with disabilities. Nothing prepared me for a product demo with a giggling child and a mother choking back tears. Now I'm looking for ways to make Switchamajig push aside more obstacles for more people. Have any ideas? Let me know with a comment or email me at info@switchamajig.com.

Play on!

* * * * * * * * *

Phil has generously offered a $50 discount if you order using the coupon code "adaptingcreatively." Thanks Phil!

Note:  We don't own an iPad or a Switchamajig, so I have no personal experience with either. I thought this switch interface and Phil's story of how he came to create it might be of interest to many of you.
                                        --Rose-Marie

3 comments:

Patrick Black said...

This is really cool, thanks for sharing!!!

Barbara @ TherExtras said...

Wow! I am impressed! Going to share this!

sell my cell phone said...

I've read such on a different blog, indeed really impressive!