Another technological first: Mobile company Qualcomm and Project Ray announced yesterday the development of a multi-use smartphone for the blind and visually impaired. It's currently being tested on 100 participants in Israel and is set to be released there next month. Before this prototype, the multipurpose gadgets most of us take for granted were never available to the blind. Instead, they had to rely on several (expensive) devices to accomplish a variety of tasks: color readers, special-bar code scanners, 2G mobile phones only equipped for voice use, and others.
This new technology, however, is modeled after a regular off-the-shelf smartphone, and will give the user access to all of these needs in one tool, controlled by "eye-free" interaction.
When the user touches the screen, built-in vibration and voice prompts direct them to select one of many different tasks, like messaging, location services, or listening to an audio book. The user interface is designed to learn the touch habits of it's user, making selection even more seamless. For audio book and magazine content, the device is connected to Israel's Central Library for the Blind, Visually Impaired, and Handicapped.
According to the World Health Organization, 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide; 39 million are blind and 246 million have low vision. With this kind of advancement, an entire demographic will be equipped with the kind of technological freedom you and I already have readily accessible, enhancing their social life, independence, and accessibility.
Photo courtesy of Qualcomm