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Reader tech ideas: Disability aids, sensors in bloodstream

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(CNN) -- Technology is always changing and improving, but readers say these changes may need to take different forms and focus on different things.


Laura Arlov wishes she could make life easier for her husband, who has multiple sclerosis.

Laura Arlov, of Oslo, Norway, said she thinks it's ironic that many electronic devices for mass distribution are more user-friendly than devices made for the handicapped. She wrote "GUI for Dummies," a book about graphical user interfaces, but struggles to find ways to help her husband cope with advanced multiple sclerosis.

Per Arlov used to translate "For Dummies" books and play soccer, but his illness debilitated him. Starting in 2000, he started to walk with a wobble that stopped him from playing soccer. He then started to have trouble reading and experienced problems with his short-term memory.

"He used to be a good touch typist, and now it's with one finger and with great difficulty," Laura Arlov said. "Currently, he's dependent on people. We have around-the-clock help."

A wireless doorbell and an elastic band were used to create a call button Per Arlov could push for help, since he has trouble using multiple devices at once. Simplicity is key, Laura Arlov says. Her one wish is for a "convergence" product that her husband can easily use.

She and other readers suggested better, more user-friendly gadgets than are currently on the market. Some were quite practical, and others a bit more whimsical. Below is a selection of the responses received, some of which have been edited.

Laura Arlov of Oslo, Norway
My ideal gadget would be a light, durable touch-screen gadget for my handicapped husband. It should be light enough to hang around his neck, do voice synthesis to speak on his behalf, send [infrared] signals so he can run the TV or call for help, incorporate a mobile phone, have an interface I can program from my PC (since he needs about 4 buttons per screen, his hands are shaky), have plenty of storage space for audio books, and be easy to back up [infrared] receivers on his wheelchair and bed could allow him to adjust position with it, too. For people like Per, who has cognitive involvement, too many different devices can be a big problem.

Richard Martin of Paris, France
The perfect "gadget" would be a personal operating system. It would consist of a micro-network of sensors and communication network nodes that would be injected into my bloodstream. Each sensor would migrate to key positions within my body where it would report on the status of important vital signs such as my heartbeat, liver functions, and oxygen absorption. It would then relay this information to an internal hard drive that would store the information indefinitely for future medical analysis. It would also be readily available to view in my field of vision.

The world I see would essentially become a personal desktop where I could place files, objects and view data. I could of course choose to turn the view off or on at my leisure. This network would be able to access the Internet through wireless connectivity. As a result, I could watch HDTV quality movies as if I was in them, play video games in real life, paint or create graphics with much higher clarity and communicate across the Internet just as I communicate in real life. When communicating with others in adjacent areas, I could choose to open a direct line of communication with them, share information I possess or conduct private communications at will. I call it "Microsoft Doors." I think it is kind of catchy.

Donna Hinnant of Hampton, Virginia
I have to confess. There is a new love in my life. It started, innocently enough, when my sister got me hooked on "Dancing with the Stars." Then I started seeing commercials for a DWTS video game available on the Wii Console. I just HAD to have this game. I mean, dancing at home just like on the show! (Well, not like on the show ... think much, much worse!) Well, I now have a Wii console. Got it hooked up to my wireless access point and off we go!! Yeah, I am a gadget kind of woman. Go figure. At the age of 58, I should be doing mature stuff, right? Wrong. The selection of games is huge and you can also use games designed for the Nintendo Gamecube on the Wii. The games are still pricey though. I would like to see pricing come down about $10 on the major titles. (Yeah, that includes the Dancing title as well.) At $49 dollars a pop for most titles, adding games can get expensive in a hurry. Still, just for the fun of actually playing in the game makes this the gadget to have this year. And at the rate the Wii machines were flying out of the stores, a lot of gamers agree. Wii would like to play, oh yes, we do.

Guy Reinbold of Salina, Kansas
I don't know if you would call it a gadget or not but I think a wheel, one mile in diameter, could be installed on the Mississippi river with it's axes placed in a magnetic east/west position with thousands of wires on the periphery, parallel to the axes. This assembly should be placed so the water will turn the wheel and still allow river traffic. As the wheel rotates, the wires will cross the earth's magnetic field and produce an electrical current. It will be a major problem to erect a structure ... but I think it is doable.

Asher Levy of Thornhill, Ontario
I am truly impressed with the features of the iPhone. What would make this the ideal gadget would be the addition of both voice-activated features such as dialing as well as a built in active GPS unit.

Timothy Beere of Fort Wayne, Indiana
Someone should create a small device that you can travel with that will translate for you. Say for instance that the device is basically the size of a cell phone or iPod. If I'm traveling to France, I'd set it on English/French translation. I would speak English into the device and it would repeat what I said in French. I could then hand the device or hold it up for the French person to speak into and it would translate what they said into English. I know that they have things similar to this that you can type into and it will show you a translation, but one that you could speak into and get and audio translation back would be much more useful and practical to use when traveling.

Allen McCormick of Dominion, Nova Scotia
I dream about the perfect gadget. I would like a lightweight, thin, portable, rugged Web screen that will work anywhere, anytime; from the bottom of the ocean to the top of mountains, within the basement of skyscrapers to walking down the street. On this device, I would like to be able to calmly speak to it once without any headset and it will perform my command. I would be able to search audio, video and text. No longer would I rely on meta data, it would be able to pinpoint words in a song or a speech and return only what I was looking for.

I would be able to watch TV, surf the Internet, watch a movie, read a book or take a course, pay bills, control my car and house. My perfect gadget and access to the services would be free. I would allow advertisers to advertise on it while I am not using it.

Say it is so at the CES and deliver it under the tree next X-mas.

Patty Marriott of Akron, Ohio
It is an additional feature for your automobile that could be available remotely as well as from inside the car and would create a 10 to 16 inch umbrella like fold out from both the passenger and drivers side covering you in inclement weather. It would help moms as they take their children out of car seats or seat belts, help taking out dry cleaning or groceries and would be useful as a temporary shelter while opening or closing an umbrella, stroller, etc.

Tara Swinson of Winston-Salem, North Carolina
New products should be sleek with revolving hinges and touch-screen features. It's all about versatility and being able to use one item for multiple tasks.

Ray Martin of Baltimore, Maryland
It would be voice-activated, no typing at all. It would roughly be the size and weight of the iPhone, except it would have a fold-out flat panel the had a built-in camera for video phoning, that also served as a travel base, that always connected to the home/office via WI-max and was as secure as possible. It would type through voice recognition and act as a GPS interface with your car without wires. As soon as you enter the car it would be recognized and would store traveled routes and could also be the music center for home, car and office.

KH of Los Angeles, California
A paper-thin portable computer I can fold up and put in my purse, then open up and type with a nice big screen. It can let me query it for information or dictate an email and send it while it's still folded up, say, when I'm in the car.

Rado Kotorov of Somerset, New Jersey
The iPod has the potential to become a universal book and textbook portable digital library. To achieve this, a functionality needs to be added that allows listeners/readers to personalize the audio books in the same way as we personalize printed books - we highlight, add notes, etc. Here is some of the additional functionality that is needed: (1) Display the actual text on the screen and make it scroll with the audio, (2) bookmark, highlight sentences and text by pressing a button while listening, (3) tag the highlights either in iTunes or on the iPod, (4) add personal notes/comments in iTunes, (5) print selections of comments and chapters from iTunes, (6) display graphs and IM pages (from the book) on the iPod.

Michael Boucher of Milton, Vermont
I believe it was RCA who developed a television with a remote control paging system on it a few years ago. I remember the ads being humorous, where a man is seen searching for a beep throughout his house and finds it in the bedroom where is wife is all dolled up for him, as he walks in he ignores his wife and takes the remote. Bottom line is the idea of a paging system, like portable telephones, was ingenious and should be an element of all TVs. Bring it back.

Dana Barth of Boulder Creek, California
A device worn on the wrist that is operated by voice recognition and includes: cell, MP3, GPS, full PC functionality, video, live TV, gaming, camera, voice recorder, video conferencing, wireless Internet, LED flashlight, Bio monitoring and synch's to PC or network. Display via eyewear, a device Dick Tracy would be proud to wear.

Collin Witwer of St. Paul, Minnesota
A wrist cell phone for women that are always losing their cell phones.

Jim Dabringer of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
I want a gadget the size of my Pearl that can pickup Internet radio, control my digital TV for recording, allow me to monitor a home security system. Also one to check where my baggage is via GPS.

Jay J. of Williston, Florida
I hope someday that cable companies that offer Internet service will offer "in air" service like cell phones. No more cable wire to hook up for service to your computer. All you need is a special card in your computer. I guess that would make all towns hot spots. Sounds good to me. That would also be a good idea for TVs. No more cable boxes!

David Deaton of Dayton, Ohio
My perfect gadget is a new kind of ATM card that no matter how many times you use it, you never run out of money. You stick it in any machine and just take out what you want.

Ross Handy of Charleston, South Carolina
I think it would be good if Microsoft created a new X-Box with a six-disk changer inside the unit so that the user doesn't have to get up in order to change games.

Julie J. of Gainesville, Florida
I'd like a laptop with the plug-in areas in the back instead of just the sides except the DVD/CD drive. I use mine like a desktop. I had to put the CPU in the pullout drawer to hide the ugly wires coming off the sides then I had to get a cordless keyboard and mouse which is on the top of my desk. I already had another monitor. Also, I liked a computer (any style) to be instant on and off instead of having to wait several minutes for it to start up and shut off and have a power button on the outside of a laptop too instead of just inside.

Sean Stimac of Marquette, Michigan
My ideal gadget would be for my aquariums. It would be a series of platinum plated probes that sit inside of your aquarium and test for specific gravity, pH, temperature, water level, oxygen content, carbon dioxide content, and TDS. the probes would programmed into a pre-programmed computer application that would adjust any abnormalities automatically. All of the probes exist, but there is not program available that is able to control aquariums.

This program along with the said equipment and carefully engineered control systems would save the serious aquarist tons of hours monthly and would also eliminate the risk of human error. There are currently two Americans developing this program, but they aren't serious about it and neither project will come to fruition. This has not been licensed or patented and there is currently no attempt being made to do so.

Edward Lipp Jr. of Cleveland, Ohio
The iPhone is about as good as it gets these days. (I don't own one...) It needs a slide-out keyboard no matter what Steve Jobs tells you. An idea I had years ago (should have dealt with a patent) was for a mouse on the back of the device so you can look at the screen and mouse without touching the actual screen. I've seen someone else working with that idea I believe. Still need higher resolution but that's tough on a screen that size. Silly you have to hack it to get video recording capabilities. 8GB is still a joke too. The iPhone in a tablet format would be really nifty as well. I love gadgets!

Maria DiazVivian of Redwood City, California
I want to see some thing that has a bigger screen. I was all set to buy the Foleo and was so disappointed when it was cancelled. I bought a Life Drive but the software wouldn't work ( keep it because the wifi is the only thing that works and it works better than the TX). I now have a TX (the optional viewing feature is helpful, but needs more memory as viewing the photos or graphics on CNN is too hard for the system and it can't connect to the Internet directly only via wifi) and a Palm Centro phone. The screen on the Centro is just too small, so I have to use the TX to view any files I have to travel with.

Do manufacturers have to meet ADA requirements when producing these products? Consider the fact that I now have spent well over $1,000. dollars on Plam products (not including my prior ones) and have resorted to using two devices because I can't see the details on the tiny Centro. Do manufacturers (all of them) take into consideration that us tech folks (first generation) are now hitting or have hit our forties?

Herman Laret of New York
I have always been anti-Apple until recently when I discovered the iPhone. I think the iPhone is the greatest piece of technology in the last 10 years. However, as is typical with Apple they make customers use their methodology for syncing etc i.e. via iTunes. My ideal "gadget" would be an iPhone that's 100 percent compatible and sync-able with Microsoft compatible software. That also means music would be sync-able via, for example, Yahoo! music jukebox. Larger storage than the current 8GB and also GPS included would sum up the best technology/gadget ever in my mind. It has taken communications and being in touch with the world and information to a whole new level. It's simply awesome.

Stan Webb of Austin, Texas
Dick Tracy had it right in the last century: Communications through your watch. But we need to take this about 10 steps farther than Tracy did. We need to do EVERYTHING through our watch. We need access to any information in the world through a central communication device that we wear on our arm. Cell phone, music, video, email, Internet, GPS, gaming, movies, video conferencing, camera and anything you could possibly need should be available on your arm at any time no matter where you are. The wireless controller would be on your arm. It would transmit surround sound to wireless earphones and 3D video to wireless glasses that you wear or would attach to regular glasses that you already wear. Everything would be voice or thought controlled, so you don't have to type on a tiny keyboard. There would be no heavy batteries to carry around. Power would be wirelessly transmitted to your PortaComm through the air, just like all of the information you will be accessing. This would be my ultimate gadget and this is not that far away.

Kirk Bailey of Largo, Florida
My gadget looks like a pancreas. It senses sugar and insulin levels in the blood and manufactures insulin on-demand from blood sugar- which it runs on.

It is man made organ. It is used as a treatment for diabetes. Right now it is a fairly large box worn on the waist or chest, and must be refilled regularly, and new batteries provided. We need one to implant, which needs no batteries. Biotechnology geeks, please take a whack at it.

Collin Witwer of St. Paul, Minnesota
A combination of a features of a Pocket PC and a cell phone. Allowing Microsoft software to play mpgs, mp3s. Removable SD media for additional storage. It would have MS word and Excel and be able to transpose your handwriting or voice to type. It would have a password to protect your data.

James Collins of Ashland, Oregon
My perfect gadget looks like the iPhone -- except it would have no-brainer features like a task list, email that really works (Exchange), and a 3G wireless antenna.

Joe Puopolo of Atlantic Beach, Florida
I started using a BlackBerry within the last year and think it is close to the perfect device, so I'd like something like a Blackberry "Curve" that includes a phone, camera, Web browser, email, MP3 player, voice recorder, calculator, and pocket computer capable of running additional programs (calorie counter, etc.) But it would also be a video camera, GPS device and flashlight.

Stacy Loesch of Roswell, Georgia
Car gadget monitors current vehicle speed and distance to car in front. If the car in front is too close, the car reduces speed. This should be mandatory in all cars after 2009. It would save lives (less accidents) and gas (one accident causes gridlock for hours). I cannot believe this device could not be designed and mass-produced by the major manufacturers within one or two years if mandated. No new technology required.

Janis Braun of Greenfield, Wisconsin
I would love a cell phone that fits on your wrist, like a watch. Women don't always have pockets to keep the cell phone in. I could open sideways, to view the screen.

Rick Norling of Key Largo, Florida
With the advancements in technology, why haven't any companies offered a solar-powered battery for an iPod or cell phone?

Dan Thomas of Raleigh, North Carolina
I never want to carry more than one device. But of course I have to, still. I'm Hoping to soon have a device that is a good phone and has at least a 3-megapixel camera with focus and flash. It should also have a large hard disk for music, and should be able to write or download custom apps in an open language such as micro java or micro c#, not a proprietary SDK. It should have a great game emulator for both Nintendo DS and PSP games with buttons on side of device in correct locations. The device should have screen full face on device. Web browsing should be similar to Safari or Deepfish. No phone/device comes close to this, not the iPhone, not the vX6800, not the Tilt, not the N95. Please, I only want to carry one device! Oh, I also want a car that does not run on oil/gas. I also want all roofs to be made of solar power cells, roofs on homes, roofs on cars. Come on guys I know all of this is doable, and as soon as you start mass producing the prices will fall. Please! E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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