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Summary:

While Siri and VoiceOver can assist visually impaired iPhone users, new software out of Georgia Tech looks to supplement these accessibility options. BrailleTouch uses traditional Braille input on the iPhone’s touchscreen, allowing people to type up to 32 words per minute with 92 percent accuracy.

brailletouch

While Siri and VoiceOver can assist visually impaired iPhone users, new software out of the Georgia Tech College of Computing looks to supplement these accessibility options. BrailleTouch is a prototype application that uses traditional Braille input on the iPhone’s touchscreen, allowing people to type up to 32 words per minute with 92 percent accuracy, all without looking at the phone’s display.

Here’s how it works. The phone is actually held with the screen facing away from the user. Six large dots appear on the touchscreen in landscape mode, which can auto-rotate, making it irrelevant how the device is held. Using the traditional Braille method, users tap the correct dots to form letters and words. The software can speak aloud the typed letters, helping to ensure proper spelling and input.

This solution is brilliant on several levels. The iPhone has one of the best displays of any phone on the market, but in this case, the high-resolution screen is turned into a highly effective input mechanism for those with limited or no sight. Ergonomically, BrailleTouch makes sense too. And as a free, open source application, it’s far cheaper than a dedicated Braille machine, even when factoring in the cost of an iPhone.

    1. I think Ankit’s idea is really nice. Here is BrailleTouch’s second paper (http://www.cc.gatech.edu/~mromero/romero_frey_southern_abowd_2011.pdf), presented Aug 30–Sept 2, 2011. I believe the original was in July.

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  1. Combine this technology on Android with the Ubuntu HUD UI concept and the accessible fork of the open source FBReader (http://github.com/benetech/FBReaderJ) and you start to have a powerful ebook reader for people with vision disabilities.

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    1. Glad Android is heading that direction with concept software. But don’t forget Apple has these features built in to iOS.

      http://www.apple.com/accessibility/iphone/vision.html

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    2. Thank you for sharing this, Gerardo. As the parent of a child with low vision, I’m always looking for new technologies.

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  2. To be honest I thought someone would have come up with this already, Siri is brilliant but still isn’t perfect.

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  3. It is about time that someone starts to address the problem of the Achilles heel of the iPhone, and probably many Android phones as well. Their lacking of a physical keyboard really is fatally flawed when comes to texting. You will have to look at the tiny keys to type, instead of looking on the screen of what you are writing. Even with the utmost of care you can still make many mistakes by hitting the wrong key on an iPhone. Another app tries to help iPhone users lookup contacts, called PhoneBook Plus, uses a bigger numerical keypad, but it is only limited to searching names, numbers and groups, not for texting. But still, it is easy to see a big difference PhoneBook already made. Siri may be a partial solution, but would be very interesting to see whether there can be a new revolution way of typing on a touch screen.

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  4. Is this app available anywhere now for use on iPod Touch?

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    1. In the Fall.

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  5. I think that’s brilliant. But I have a few questions. Can you feel the dots that appear on the screen? When using it, how can you use it with a brail method? When writing in brail, you use both hands. How do you do that? Thanks.

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