Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Computer assisted Chinese (part II): Touchscreen 1

In learning Chinese, I want computers to assist me in two ways. The first is in learning Chinese characters, and the second is as an in-class dictionary/reference.

The first is just a follow-on step from my flashcards and Chutor phone program. But I need to get smarter about how I learn characters. For that reason, I'm using Skritter, a great web service which uses spaced repetition to teach you characters:


To use Skritter, you have to write Chinese characters in an on-screen scribble area.  You can do this with a mouse, but it's fiddly, and I think it's not very good for your wrist, as you're using wrist muscles to try and get the fine motor control you usually get with your fingers on a pen.

A better solution is to use some kind of pen input device.  This is a much more natural way of doing things.  Commercial pen input devices are far too expensive in Australia (at least A$60 for an entry level model).  So I am thinking of using one of these extremely cheap touchscreens, which are intended as replacements for the Nintendo DS:


Eventually I want to read this touchscreen with a small microprocessor, and present this to the computer as a USB touchscreen.  For the moment, I'm going to take a number of half-way steps.

The first half-way step is to start with the larger, commercial touchscreen that used to be inside my EeePC.  The touchscreen size is 15cm by 9cm, which is a lot bigger than I need, but it already has a working controller board.

Once I have that working, I plan to move to one of the smaller replacement touchscreens, and use an Arduino to make it appear as a USB device.


I think if I can get all this working, I can replace the Arduino with a smaller dedicated micro, put it in a nice, flat case, and make a pen input device for about A$20.

Second project in next post.

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