Tuesday, February 28, 2006
KELVIN, a fully programmable voice-interactive talking thermostat, was introduced last month at the AHR Expo, the world's largest heating and air conditioning trade show. KELVIN was developed as a talking thermostat to meet the special needs of people who are blind or sight impaired, and who cannot visually control the temperature settings in their homes. The patented technology of the programmable thermostat enables temperature in the home to be adjusted either manually or with verbal commands. Then the talking thermostat verbally confirms the adjusted temperature.
KELVIN is a product of Action Talking Products LLC, a company formed by the inventor, Scott Flood, Independent Living Aids, Inc., and the National Federation of the Blind. Independent Living Aids, located in Jericho, NY, is the country's oldest privately-held company supplying products nationally for people who are blind or visually impaired. The National Federation of the Blind, located in Baltimore, MD, is America's largest membership organization of blind people, with more than 50,000 members. It has been estimated that there are currently over 30 million Americans who are visually handicapped or physically challenged, to whom standard programmable thermostats are not accessible. The KELVIN programmable thermostat is available to the public through http://www.actiontalkingproducts.com.
Marvin Sandler, President of Independent Living Aids, has said, "A considerable amount of assistance, input and testing was provided by the Rehabilitation and Engineering Research Center on Technology Transfer (T2RERC) at the State University of New York at Buffalo, which is a federally sponsored and funded program. The federal government has taken a particular interest in assistive technology projects such as this in an effort to encourage compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act." During tests and with the input of focus groups organized and conducted by T2RERC, voice interactive speech was added to accommodate people in wheelchairs, and those who aren't able to get close enough to their thermostats to operate them manually.
KELVIN programmable thermostat has been successfully tested by, and marketed for more than a year to blind people, and has been enthusiastically received. This programmable thermostat was one of the devices selected to be included in the ABC television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Improvements" in a 2-hour special on the construction of a home for a man who had been blinded during a random shooting spree by a deranged individual.
KELVIN is a fully programmable thermostat with automatic temperature adjustments for morning, daytime, evening and night. Heating or air conditioning settings can be programmed individually for each day of the week, resulting in energy savings during days, such as weekends or vacations, when the home is unoccupied. Thermostat settings can also be adjusted by saying "raise" or "lower," but before saying "raise" or "lower" the user must first speak the activation word: "thermostat." During tests and work with focus groups, it was found that without the activation word, a poker game with players shouting "I raise" could result in a really hot game.
In the usual course of events, technology in the "big world" market is modified and adapted to the special needs of people who are handicapped. In a turnabout, though the KELVIN thermostat was originally developed for people who are blind or visually impaired, it is now breaking out into the general home heating and air conditioning market. The interactive speech function makes KELVIN ideal for use by baby-boomers, the elderly, residents of retirement communities, designers of accessible hotel rooms and even for young "techies" who want to be the first in their neighborhood to own the latest technological advance in home heating controls.
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