Microsoft’s annual hackathon week, the One Week Hackathon, starts today. Engineers and teams from around the company will be working together to build a bunch of different projects that help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. To celebrate the One Week Hackathon, Microsoft is releasing a free new book, sharing the story behind two of its most innovative people-centric hacks.
The new book, titled The Ability Hacks, documents the story behind the winning hackathon projects from 2014 and 2015: the Ability EyeGaze and Learning Tools teams. Sounds familiar?
The work from Microsoft’s Ability EyeGaze Hack team led to the creation of Eye Control in Windows 10, an innovative new feature that lets users with disabilities to use their computer with their eyes. The project first started off as the EyeGaze Wheelchair, which allowed NFL player Steve Gleason to control his wheelchair using his eye movements. In the new book, Microsoft shares the entire story behind how the innovation first came about, and how it developed into something accessible to everyone using Windows 10.
And then there is the Microsoft’s Learning Tools team, which was the winner of its 2015 hackathon, where it started off as a tool that allowed students suffering from dyslexia to learn how to read. The feature later developed into a wide range of tools aimed at helping students, available across Microsoft’s Office apps, Microsoft Edge, and more. “While originally created for folks with dyslexia, the Learning Tools team is seeing benefits to folks with dysgraphia, ADHD, English language learners and emerging readers,” says Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer, Jenny Lay-Flurrie.
If you want to get the deeper look inside how these projects came about, you can read Microsoft’s The Ability Hacks book for free — available in PDF and EPUB. By the way, if you are using Microsoft Edge, you can use the Learning Tools features to read about the project itself. Pretty cool.