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spacer all reviews > > > special software

TouchFree Switch

Edmark

Ages 5 and up

Rating Scale
5 = great,    1 = poor
Educational Value
n/a
Kid Appeal
n/a
Ease of Use
4.0

TouchFree Switch Screen Shot System Requirements

PC / Mac Price Survey

Product Support

The TouchFree Switch offers physically-challenged kids a new way to interact with the computer. Combining a digital video camera with switch software, it allows students who are unable to control a mouse to use a wide variety of compatible software featuring built-in switch scanning.

Users install the small, unobtrusive IBM digital camera, and place it on a flat surface somewhere near the computer, in clear view of the body part that will be used to trigger the switch. They then install the TouchFree Switch software. At this point a triggering body movement is chosen. This can be a very slight movement, like the lifting of a finger, opening of a mouth, or tapping of a foot. It must be a high contrast, distinctive movement that is recognized by the camera, and users can play around with this until they find one that is reliable and works well within their individual constraints. The TouchFree software is then used to capture the motion and set it to send mouse clicks to the computer.

Educational Value
The TouchFree Switch offers great versatility. It can be used anywhere a computer is available, in home and in classroom settings as well as in clinical and diagnostic environments. With it, children can interact with many excellent software programs at a variety of age levels (a complete list of compatible software is included in the User's Guide).

Kid Appeal
When set in the single switch scanning mode, compatible software programs rotate through available choices for each program screen. When the chosen area is highlighted, the user makes the triggering movement which the program interprets as a mouse click. This interaction mode is not as quick as standard mouse use, however it does allow kids to enjoy the program in a reasonably satisfying manner.

Ease of Use / Install
Although this product is available for both PC and Mac users, we tested the PC version only, therefore our set-up and use observations are valid for Windows 98 users only. Installation and set-up of the TouchFree Switch is a fairly time-consuming process. Despite the many steps involved, however, we found it to be fairly straightforward and simple enough for average users to successfully complete.

Users must initially install the IBM PC camera software. This process is a little confusing, since the installation window offers multiple software program options. We chose to install the IBM PC camera software only. After restarting the computer, we plugged in the camera, which was instantly recognized and installed by Windows. Next the TouchFree Switch software is installed.

At this point, users must tackle the more difficult task of setting up the triggering motion. We recommend allowing a considerable amount of time with this to ensure that the triggering motion is easily reproduced upon command.

Users can set the software so that the camera window will always be on top when multiple windows are open at once. This helps ensure that the triggering movement will be repeated accurately every time, since the user can actually watch the movement and adjust it as needed. Unfortunately one of the software titles we tested with this product would not allow another open window to exist on top, making this option useless. Users can additionally control the size of the setup window, pause the camera, adjust image quality, and set the software to make a sound with each mouse click.

Finally, compatible software must be set to allow single switch scanning. This can be accomplished in the options portion of the specific program.

Best for... / Bottom-Line
This combination digital video camera with switch software offers physically-challenged users a new way to initiate mouse clicks, allowing them access to many excellent educational products.

See SuperKids' comparisons with other special education software titles, and the Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.

System Requirements
PC: Windows 98, USB-ready PC, Pentium 166 or better, 7 MB hard drive space, 32 MB RAM, Super VGA graphics, 640x480, 256 color display, CD-ROM drive, High-quality USB camera (included).

Mac: MacOS 8.1 or higher, USB-equipped, iMac, G3 or better, 7 MB hard drive space, 32 MB RAM, 640x480, 256 color display, CD-ROM drive, High-quality USB camera (included).

Reviewed on:

  • Pentium500 with 64MB and 12XCD
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