The story of Dustin’s Words begins with Matt Reamer and his brother, Dustin. Growing up, Matt and Dustin were like any other brothers. They played together, fought, and caused trouble together. The only difference is–they’ve never had a conversation. Because, like 25% of people living with autism, Dustin can’t speak.
Matt built a prototype for a device that Dustin could use to communicate with their family. The device allows Dustin to communicate what he needs at the push of a button using SMS text messaging. Dustin’s Words has not only helped the Reamers communicate, it has given Dustin more independence in his day-to-day life.
When Matt told us about what he had done for his brother, we couldn’t help but be inspired to take the idea further. We’re working now to take the prototype that was built for Dustin and turn it into a real product that can help hundreds if not thousands of people limited by their inability to speak.
For the past few months, our team has been working to turn the simple prototype Matt built for his brother using an Arduino Yun and Temboo into a scalable product. After trialing a number of technologies, we’ve been honing in on a low-cost solution powered by Particle.io. Particle.io is a company that enables us to build an Arduino-like platform that lives in the cloud. This gives buttons and functions on Dustin’s Words the ability to be updated and customized for each individual family’s needs using a variety of online services like IFTTT, Twilio, Node.js, PHP, Python, or Spark.js. Spark.js has been particularly useful, because it gives us the ability to customize messages, delivery methods (SMS, push notifications, Whatsapp, etc.) and track word and phrase usage on the front end.
Over the next few months, we plan to finalize the technologies we’ll be using in the first run of 100 devices. We are committed to making the best, and most affordable product possible. If you have ideas for efficiencies, or other technologies we should look into, please contact us.
We believe that helping to make the day-to-day lives of people who face accessibility challenges better won’t be achieved by a group of people in an office (no matter how cool we think we are), but by impassioned people all around the world. This is exactly why we’re open sourcing everything we do. From our user testing findings, to our code, to the 3D models we build—we want to share what we make with the world, so that together we can make the world a more accessible place.
Want to help us make the world more accessible?