Talking Washing Machines Are More Accessible

New washing machines are starting to look, well, more modern, with LCD displays and smooth, easy-to-clean panels. Unfortunately, that makes appliances much more difficult to use for people with vision problems, who would prefer large knobs.

Senior-level student engineers at Michigan State University are routinely matched up with needs spotted by the teaching staff. The problem: make a washer accessible to the blind, sturdy enough to withstand the spin cycle and cheap enough to be affordable. Whirlpool donated a Duet washer (a bleeding edge model with modern controls).


(From Whirlpool)

The students quickly mastered the washer's microprocessor (who knew washers had one) and linked it to a voice prompter. The washer announces each function as it is selected; the hardware cost only about $30 in production costs added to the washer.

This would be the perfect addition to the kitchen korner appliances from William Gibson's 1996 novel Idoru. The refrigerator in particular could use something to talk to.

See Chatty washer cleans up access to high-tech appliance for more details.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/18/2004)

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