K-1 : A New Kaleidoscope Program

by Gerry Kennedy
  K-1 By Sarah Greenland
For PC Compatible computers running MS Windows 95, 98, 2000

Reviewed by Gerry Kennedy - IT Computer Consultant in Education

K-1 published by Inclusive Technology

K-1 is an exciting and innovative new kaleidoscope program from Sarah Greenland. K-1 and is published by Inclusive Technology. It is designed as a musical kaleidoscope. As the content has a wide-ranging appeal and application, it suits and caters to all ages and abilities. More importantly, it can be used in a variety of ways in order to achieve different outcomes. K-1 can be used with various access devices, especially 1 or 2 switches. K-1 can also be used for visual stimulation or simply as a screen saver. The constantly changing image is a perfect visual motivator for clients of any age, with or without music.

It is a toy, a graphic design tool as well as being an assessment tool. Many centers will use K-1 as a multi-sensory device for young children or for students who are vision impaired. A number of adult clients will perceive this program as a happy and pleasant nostalgic reminder of past experiences with kaleidoscopes.

The kaleidoscope can be manipulated as a toy with users watching the patterns turn and shake with actions made with their access device, be it a mouse, trackball, touch window, keyboard or switch. K-1 is many kaleidoscopes in one program as you can easily pre-set the colors and shapes or allow the program to constantly change them - the choice is yours. It is very flexible and provides so many options. Music is also optional. You can encourage participation and invite involvement through having one of six themes, including Kaleidoscope Theme, Stately Dance, November Blues, Spooky Cellos, Sister Whoopi or Mice in the Harpsichord playing as the kaleidoscope moves. Random music can be selected as well. Most importantly, the music can be switched off to avoid disturbing others, or you can simply decrease the volume on your system, or have clients wear headphones. You choose a theme from the six provided, or let the music change each time the kaleidoscope is `shaken`.

In Design Mode, you choose the shapes and colors that make up the kaleidoscope. Then simply shake and turn until the pattern accommodates your needs or appeals to the user. By varying the background color and music you are able to customize each kaleidoscope to suit individual preferences and visual. A great feature is where you can save your finished designs and re-use or modify them. For many users, the ability to immediately print them will be a bonus as kaleidoscopes can be kept, displayed, taken home or published. When you create a design with K-1 you can be assured, as with any kaleidoscope, that the pattern will always be unique and original.

K-1 can be employed and introduced as an assessment tool with students and clients with a combination of physical and sensory impairments. In early intervention centers, special school settings and in vision clinics, K-1 can be used as a tool to entice users to attend to the screen display and/or listen to the calming music. When used in multi-sensory environments, the software acts as a calming device and as visual stimulation. The screen saver mode provides visual stimulation and a constantly changing image. Use it while the computer is not being used as a screen saver, for clients who have limited or no movement or for clients incapacitated for short periods of time. It will be ideal in hospitals or recovery rooms for people of any age or condition as it is so peaceful and is quite mesmerizing. Elderly people with no previous experience of computers will discover that an activity from the past has been reintroduced - in a new exciting media.

There are many programs in the market for switch users. K-1 is unique in that it is a totally new concept for computers (at least in my experience of fifteen years). Unlimited beautiful and unique designs can be produced regardless of users` physical impairment. Students integrated in mainstream classrooms can work with peers on a design - from creation to completion. It can be totally open-ended in specifications, or left up to the imagination and innovation of the students. It can be an onscreen kaleidoscope project to be viewed electronically or one where a collage or montage has to be printed and published.

K-1 has been made so that it is accessible to users who have a degree of visual impairment. The entire pattern is visible and centered on the display (i.e. unlike traditional kaleidoscopes). As large elements can be used, with high contrast colors, kaleidoscopes can be made that are specific in content and design to suit visual conditions. Displayed in a dark, quiet room, I anticipate that users will be delighted in shaking and turning and then seeing the fascinating effects. The design can be prepared in advance, then saved and loaded later when required with twenty selections being able to save to a file on disk.

You launch K-1 and after a couple of seconds, the mouse pointer becomes visible. The buttons and configuration menu also become visible and are active. You simply move the mouse pointer to the top of the screen to make the program menu appear. On the title start up screen there are six buttons running vertically down the left-hand side.

The Kaleidoscope button, which is a red hexagon, takes you to the kaleidoscope screen in Toy Mode. The patterns have six-fold symmetry and are chosen at random. They appeal to users of any age and are generic in design. The second button, Demo Kaleidoscope represented as a blue and purple square, gives you another toy mode screen with a limited range of shapes and colors in four-fold symmetry. The pink fluffy dice is the Random button and is the third toy mode screen. Six-fold symmetry is used to create vibrant, outrageous and wacky color combinations.

The creation and design modes include the next Pick n` Mix button, which appears an icon of a palette. It is here that you choose the shapes and colors to go into your own custom made kaleidoscope. It uses six-fold symmetry. By clicking on the Load button, you load a previously saved file to re-use or edit. The last button is Exit.

When you first use kaleidoscope, the default is to run K-1 in Toy Mode with mouse, touch window, keyboard and 2 switches enabled. To change the configuration, you simply use the menu bar on the title screen. Any changes made here are saved for future sessions. You can view the menu in one of two ways, either by pressing [F8] or moving your mouse to the top of the screen. You can restart the viewing or design process, enter pause mode or choose to quit.

Switch Options allow you to toggle between two switches (which is the default) and one switch mode. When you choose one switch, the auto-scan feature defaults to 2 seconds, which can be changed up to a speed setting of ten. A great feature is where you can set the program to perform an `Auto Exit`. It allows switch users to exit from Toy Mode screens without assistance. There are `Shake` and `Turn` buttons on the kaleidoscope screens if you wish. If your students or clients use a mouse or touch window, you set the required option to `Buttons On`. On the other hand, to accommodate switch users, tick `Buttons Off` for cause-and-effect style interaction with this distraction.

These are toolbars for Design Mode. For switch and touch window designers, you can introduce Pop-Up Toolbars. The main toolbar will pop-up 20 seconds into a design and every 20 seconds thereafter. Users can either use them or disregard them and keep working. This provides for independent use of the software for more capable users who are physically impaired, but know what they wish to do, and how to achieve it! A mouse pointer can be shown or removed, depending upon the user's preference and access mode. There is an online help file (f1) available at any time.

K-1 is very flexible, affords a whole new set of experiences for younger users and reminds older clients of their past!

Hardware Requirements

K-1 requires a PC running MS Windows 95, 98 or 2000 running on a Pentium 100 (200MHz is strongly advised or higher) with 16MB RAM, a CD ROM drive, and a compatible sound card. The screen display should be at least 16-bit color in a 640 x 480-screen mode. A slower machine will operate but not as satisfactorily as a newer computer.


You install K-1 from the CD ROM disk. The 16 page A5 User Guide clearly describes the simple installation. It took only about 1 minute to fully install. The program and associated 13 files and two sub-folders install into C:\windows\K1 directory. Installation is easily performed. You can also install and run the K-1 Screen Saver as well. My PC now plays soothing music and displays random files when idle - which is both enjoyable and calming as a background distraction.


You will require 10MB of free space on your hard disk drive. DirectX 6.1 is also required. It will only run under MS Windows 95 or higher. As it is quite generic in design, it will appeal to teenage students who use one or two switches. There are a number of keyboard shortcuts and these are all active during play.