More than 100 regional winners of a nationwide contest to inspire new inventions that apply personal computers to the problems of handicapped people will meet here later this week for final competition. Their inventions will go on display at the National Academy of Sciences this Saturday, and the grand prize winner will be announced next Monday.
Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University, with a grant from the National Science Foundation and Tandy Corp.'s Radio Shack division, offered a $10,000 grand prize for the invention that most contributed to improving the quality of life for handicapped persons. Several smaller prizes will also be awarded.
Mark B. Friedman, a Pittsburgh engineer at Carnegie-Mellon University, took first place in the Region 3 competition, which included the Washington area. His invention, a personal computer-based infrared eye-tracking system, allows severely handicapped speech-impaired persons to express themselves audibly by focusing a light beam on words and phrases displayed on a screen. Other regional winners include second-place Howard Batie of Herndon, Va., for his "Handi-Writer," which allows the user to display phrases and words on a screen by exerting minimal body pressure against a control box, and third-place Reuel Launey of Arlington, for "The Motor -- A Handicapped Support System." He described his device, a voice-operated computer system that makes business calls, checks inventories, coordinates office work, and turns off the lights and stereo, as similar to "living with a very helpful, patient friend."
A machine that converts type into braille, another that allows deaf people to receive messages from Touch-Tone telephones, and yet another that converts sounds into visual images for voice training were among the national winners.
Program associates who provided prizes and awards include the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society, and corporations and institutions.