Qualcomm and Project Ray developing eye-free smartphone for visually impaired people

October 23, 2012
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    Although we like to say that technology has advanced to the point that it is now accessible to all people, regardless of race, gender, social or health status, the fact of the matter is that there are still some that can’t use a mobile phone to its full potential.

    Did you know for instance that there are 285 million visually impaired people worldwide, among which 39 million are blind? And that these millions have to depend on basic 2G mobile phones for voice telephony, as well as an array of other very expensive devices for multimedia playing, e-book reading, navigation and all those different tasks that a “normal” human being can so easily access with a $200 or $300 smartphone?

    Fortunately, someone has finally thought about those millions of disadvantaged people and has decided to take a stand and act on that. That someone is Qualcomm, the US-based tech giant that we all know for the developing of the hugely popular Snapdragon line of mobile processors.

    In collaboration with Project Ray Ltd., a much smaller firm that designs accessibility tools for blind and visually impaired people, Qualcomm is in the final stages of testing an always-on, easy-to-use, multi-function smartphone called simply “Ray”.

    We don’t know much about Ray’s availability, pricing or spec sheet right now, but what we do know is that this is one “project” that definitely needs to become reality, no matter what hurdles Qualcomm has to overcome.

    Based on an off-the-shelf Android powered smartphone, Ray features a unique user interface “built ground-up for eye-free operation”, according to Boaz Zilberman, CEO of Project Ray. Basically, the UI can adapt to the users’ unique needs and preferences courtesy of the phone’s built-in vibration and voice prompts.

    Aside from phone calls, Ray’s UI supports text messaging with vocal read-out, navigation, object recognition, social network services, remote assistance, and audio-book reading.

    “The user touches any position on the screen and that becomes the starting point for selecting an audio-book, messaging or other activity. Navigation is enabled by a few simple finger movements in different directions.” are some of the explanations given by Zilberman on the phone’s rather unique principle of operation.

    Although we’re also glad to hear that Ray is synced with Israel’s Central Library for the Blind, Visually Impaired and Handicapped audio books content, we surely hope that the innovative device will enjoy a global release sooner or later. For the time being, this is being tested with 100 Israeli participants, which is a start, albeit a timid one.

    You can head on to the source link below for Qualcomm’s press release announcing the testing of Ray, but you can also find out more about the prototype at project-ray.com. Now all fingers crossed and let’s hope for a smooth developing and a quick release.

     

     

     

    Comments

    • Ido Kahana

      Device is in Hebrew :D
      Go Israel!

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