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TEACHING GUIDES


Nordic Sagas: Isaac and Friends


Imagine if you could not make your wishes and needs known to others or even talk about your day unless you had a personal assistant with you at all times. Meet Stig and Thomas, two Swedish men who were unable to communicate until the invention of Isaac, a personal digital assistant (PDA). Using Isaac to create a database of photographs has enriched the lives of these two men and other adults in the program by increasing their mobility and independence.

Curriculum Links
Related Frontiers Show and Activity
Activity: Design a PDA
More About Issac and Its Developer
A Message from Bodil Jonsson



CURRICULUM LINKS


PSYCHOLOGY

communication

TECHNOLOGY


computers, engineering, PDA technology




RELATED FRONTIERS SHOW AND ACTIVITY

It's a Kid's World (Show 505): Speaking for Herself





ACTIVITY: DESIGN A PDA

After you watch this episode, brainstorm ideas of what features you would want to include in a personal digital assistant.
  • How much of a photo archive would you need to describe events in a typical day?
  • After you see the Pictorium, brainstorm applications for use in other situations. For example, how could the same concept be used with young children? With students learning a foreign language?
  • Use available technology and/or future technology to design a PDA for people who are either physically or mentally impaired or who have limited mobility.
  • What are some of the challenges disabled people face every day? How can you simulate their experiences? You could borrow a wheelchair and find out what it's like to be restricted to a chair. You could put Vaseline on your glasses and find out what it's like to see poorly. You could wear ear plugs for part of a day and find out what it's like to lose your hearing. These are some of the experiences people in rehabilitation engineering study, so they can find ways to assist people to live more fully.


MORE ABOUT ISAAC AND ITS DEVELOPER

WHAT IS ISAAC?
As you can see on Frontiers, Isaac is a personal digital assistant (PDA) that combines a computer, a camera, a GPS navigator and cell phone. Designed for individuals with cognitive dysfunctions, Isaac is just one project being developed by CERTEC.

WHAT IS CERTEC?
CERTEC is the Center for Rehabilitation Engineering Research at Lund University in Lund, Sweden. In this episode you meet Bodil Jonsson, CERTEC's founder, head of research and professor in the field of rehabilitation engineering. Some other projects being developed at CERTEC include WALKY, an ultrasonic navigating mobile robot system for people with physical disabilities, and RAID, a robotic workstation that will enable people with disabilities to handle books, papers, disks, etc., in an office.

WHY WAS ISAAC DEVELOPED?
According to Jonsson, the Isaac idea grew out of her belief that differently abled people can communicate if they are able to use the language of pictures. The prototype was developed through CERTEC and a program in Lund, Sweden, at group homes for adults with cognitive dysfunctions.

WHAT'S THE FUTURE OF ISAAC?
Since the first Isaac project in 1993, the project evolved into Isaac II and Isaac III, called Science Piction. Isaac III uses Isaac's picture database, complete with talking pictures and bar codes, but is posted on the Internet. "Science Piction will make Isaac available to everyone," says Jonsson. "It is about empowerment."



A MESSAGE FROM BODIL JONSSON

Bodil Jonsson, head of CERTEC, offers these suggestions to students:
  • Search the Pictorium pages to get to know as much as you want to about Stig or Thomas or both of them.

  • Produce a personal picture letter for Stig or Thomas or both men. To do this, you first have to decide what to tell the recipient of your letter. Then your task will be to "write" a letter containing a personal message, but without written words. You can use pictures, photographs, your own drawings, even music.

  • If you wish, and have the digital capability, send your picture letters via the Internet to certec@certec.lth.se. Or, use regular mail and send to Stig or Thomas or Bodil, c/o CERTEC, LTH, Box 118, S 221 00, Lund, Sweden.

  • You could also exchange picture letters with a friend in another class or school. Use a camera to take photos to convey your message. If you have a digital camera, you could send your letter via the Internet. You might want to take photos of a typical day at your school and send them to students in younger grades at another school who will be coming to your school next fall.





 

Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
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