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Startup Eyes Disability Market

2:35 p.m. Jun. 7, 2000 PDT

SAN FRANCISCO -- A San Diego startup is developing a technology that dynamically generates custom-user interfaces for all kinds of computing devices -- laptops, handhelds, and cell phones.

Edapta's technology will initially be targeted to disabled users, but the company said it hopes it will take off in the wireless, post-PC world when information is delivered to a variety of gadgets, ranging from set-top boxes and game consoles to Net-connected cars.

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Introduced at this week's JavaOne conference, Edapta's Edaptive Engine is server-based software that queries a device for its display profile and adapts the interface elements according to things like screen size and resolution and the presence or absence of a keyboard or mouse.

Based on Sun's Jini, a networking technology that automatically recognizes new devices connecting to a network, the Edaptive Engine can automatically adapt interfaces for disabled users, who also have a wide range of interface needs.

For example, the technology could adapt a website for blind visitors who use screen-reader software to access the site. Because navigation buttons and advertisements are clutter to a screen reader, the site would trim these elements and display only the most important information on the site.

"You need to tell a blind person what's on a page before telling them how to navigate it," said Jack Berkowitz, Edapta's chief technology officer.

Likewise, the technology can dynamically modify the same site for Braille readers, increase the contrast for partially sighted visitors, or add oversize scroll bars and icons for visitors with disabilities that affecting their motor control. It even can translate the page into a variety of different languages, company officials said.

The user simply sets up a digital profile listing their needs or preferences, and the software, which sits on the server, generates the appropriate interface on the fly.

The software initially was developed for the military for use in command centers where changing battlefield conditions dictate how information is presented.

Edapta said it will initially target big companies that need to accommodate staff with disabilities.

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