Technologies that help

It’s been a while since i read this article (HE) about two young Israeli entrepreneurs who participated in developing GPS software that would be friendly for the visually impaired people. If you ever used a GPS, you would know that many (most?) of them are capable of providing voice directions. However, it is not good enough if you cannot see properly. The program that they developed makes more use of voice. For example when you select destinations or want to find out where you are at the moment and what is there in your surroundings. One interesting feature of the program is its adjustment for the use of public transportation – it will tell you what bus stop you are at and when you should get off. The main downside of the program at the moment is its price.

Recently I also read this news update about a free email service, RoboBraille, that translates text into audio or Braille. According to this article, it takes the program “can return a simple text in Braille in under a minute while taking as long as 10 hours to provide an audio recording of a book”, which i think is still very impressive (provided that the final quality of the output is good). They report to work on about 500 documents a day and have translated a quarter million texts so far. My only unanswered question here is how a visually impaired, probably blind person is supposed to send that email. That would probably require some more expansive hardware and software, which still maintains a barrier.

Even though I still have some questions, I am really excited when the information technology is used to solve real, substantial problems. If you have more examples, please share!

2 Responses to “Technologies that help”

  1. Vanessa Says:

    Hi Dima,

    I think text to speech is good for many people; both who are visually impaired and who have 20/20 vision.

    I think the text to speech service at iSpeech.org is very helpful for people with low vision. It doesn’t require any download and a free trial is available to make sure it works for you.

    The tts service is also great for anyone who just wants to save time by listening to text.

    In order to specifically help blind and visually impaired people, we recently released a beta – Blackberry application that reads all text messages and emails aloud via our service. This is available for a fraction of a fraction of other mobile communication software for the blind. As it turns out, many people like the option of listening to emails and SMS (text) messages on their Blackberry without looking at the screen. It seems to be popular with commuters.

    Could you suggest any features that we could add for blind people? Our CEO is very eager to develop software that helps people. Please email me if you have any suggestions.

    -V. Rose

  2. Dima Says:

    Thank you , Vanessa for the comment.

    I am sure there is a community of researchers looking into the issue of technology for visually impaired people and they may have better suggestions than me. I hope people who find interest in this post, will also have ideas to offer to your company.

    Best of luck!

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