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Project:Possibility coders hack for the disabled

It's pretty clear now that the short-term future of technology is in cellphones. The iPhone is proof positive that location-aware, networked, camera- and voice-equipped computing is here.

Possibility It's pretty clear now that the short-term future of technology is in cellphones. The iPhone is proof positive that location-aware, networked, camera- and voice-equipped computing is here. While the killer mainstream cellphone apps are yet to arrive, a hacking marathon at the University of Southern California showed how handheld devices could be used to assist disabled people. New York Times small business writer James Flanagan reported on Project: Possibility. Started two years ago by Christopher Leung, who was working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, P:P has birthed Bar Code Reader, a program to let blind people point a cellphone at grocery store shelves and hear a description and price of products. Another P:P program, MIND Ctrl lets the disabled control a computer mouse via brain waves and eye movements.

Now P:P is gearing up to expand. There will be a bigger hackathon in February, deemed SS12, at UCLA, sponsored by P:P, the Association of Computing Machinery at UCLA and the Mozilla Foundation.

While the organization remains nonprofit and open source, there is now a need for at least one paid position, to be funded by grants, Leung says.

We do not plan to earn revenue through a spread of our programs. In fact we plan to be completely open-source — our programs can be downloaded, modified and used by anyone at no cost — in hopes that similar programs will spread to other universities and around the world with or without our involvement. We are looking to grow and that will require people to dedicate even more of their time to this project. [So it will be necessary to] “compensate for our core positions and perhaps one day to have a full-time staff.