Concept Smartphone Could Bring Sight to Visually Impaired


A recently posted TED video gave me pause as I thinking about how lucky I am to have all of my senses. The beautiful display on the Samsung Infuse 4G is simply another piece of smooth glass to someone who is visually impaired, for example. But there’s hope based on Sumit Dagar’s brief video that explains how a Braille concept phone could be just as functional for the visually impaired as a standard smartphone is for me and you.

Perhaps what impresses me most is how Dagar is extending smartphone apps that exist today into a braille phone for tomorrow. When I saw how his concept phone uses the integrated camera to scan standard text and then translate it to braille on a tactile screen, I was reminded of both Word Lens and Google Googles.

The former immediately translates words into different languages on devices while the latter shoots a picture to the cloud for translation over a wireless connection. DagarĀ is taking the idea beyond text, however; snapping a picture with the handset will generate the image via tactile outlines on the screen.

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much progress in dynamic Braille screens, so Dagar’s great idea is still just that — a great idea. The closest I’ve seen to any similar technology that might be leveraged is the BrailleNote PK, a device that can connect wirelessly to a mobile phone and display information in Braille across a tactile area.

But a screen itself may not be needed. The Thimble concept is a wearable device that transmits data in Braille to a single finger and could supplement a smartphone screen. Again, it would be limited to text only, which isn’t enough for Dagar’s forward-thinking vision to take shape. However, it’s another encouraging step towards helping vision impaired users enjoy what we may today take for granted.

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