New hardware and software projects combine to make smartphones for the visually impaired more functional

November 6, 2012
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OEMs and software companies are trying all the time to make smartphones better for consumers. There is always better hardware being released, with quicker and easier software to go with it. Meanwhile, visually impaired people are stuck on 2G phones and old hardware. As we’ve written before, visually impaired people not only have old technology but also must purchase an array of other expensive gadgets. This is just so they can get the same out of their phones that other people do.

Thus, Project Ray was born. For those who don’t know, Project Ray is a smartphone platform designed for the visually impaired. It uses newer hardware and special software laid on top of Android. One such feature is the ability to make a selection from anywhere on the screen. You tap your finger down and the menu opens up around where you tapped. So no memorizing screen positions.

That isn’t the only project going on to help the visually impaired. There are a bunch of apps being developed for all mobile platforms to help make every day tasks easier. One such app is called IDEAL Currency Identifier. It uses the camera to identify what kind of currency someone is holding. Another is called Color Identifier. As you may have guessed, it helps identify colors.

Will this help the visually impaired have a more natural smartphone experience?

In a word, yes. Having a platform built specifically around their needs will help in a big way. Toss in the special apps and the visually impaired have more tools on smartphones than ever before. When Project Ray is done, the blind will likely be able to replace a lot of their gadgets and rely on their smartphones. With the new apps, they’ll be able to replace even more.

According to our own Adrian Diaconescu, there are 285 million visually impaired people in the world. Of those, 39 million are considered blind. So there are enough people out there who can make use of these new ideas. With these new and suddenly viable concepts, technology for the blind may get a whole lot better soon. Do you think it’ll be successful?

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