The Talking Laundry module is a smart home device for the visually impaired

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While smart appliances sometimes seem a bit superfluous (how many connected wine stoppers does one person really need after all?), one 14-year-old is here to prove that technology can solve tangible problems, too. Jack DuPlessis, a teenager from Louisville, Kentucky, has created a smart device that helps visually impaired folks to receive audio feedback from washers and dryers. He calls it the Talking Laundry module and while he is responsible for all the code that powers the device, the idea originally came from his father, Sam DuPlessis, a design leader at GE Appliance’s innovation hub First Build.

The elder DuPlessis noted that many of today’s appliances are not exactly user-friendly for folks who are visually impaired. For example, an oven knob may have extremely hard-to-read temperatures, or a laundry machine may have unclear settings. Luckily, Jack DuPlessis had a solution. The teen (who is a self-taught programmer) ended up writing about 1,000 lines of JavaScript code to use a GEA appliance’s service diagnostics board to actually provide feedback about the appliance. Normally, service technicians use this board to figure out why a machine might not be working, but DuPlessis repurposed it and then asked students at the Kentucky School for the Blind to test it out.

Their feedback proved instrumental for the young programmer, as they asked Jack to have the device announce, say, how much time is left on a washing or drying cycle. The younger DuPlessis obliged and programmed the device to give aural feedback.

The device itself is only about the size of an external hard drive and just needs to be plugged into an outlet and the back of a recent GE laundry appliance. From there, the Talking Laundry module will tell users the spin level, color settings, or time remaining.

Such an invention could be instrumental to improving accessibility to the visually impaired, Larry Skutchan, director of technology product research at the American Printing House for the Blind, told Insider Louisville.

“Being independent is really important for people,” he noted. And thanks to smart devices like the Talking Laundry module, independence may be an attainable goal.

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