Saturday, 27 October 2012

Finally, a smartphone for the visually impaired

Qualcomm's new Ray smartphone for the visually impaired has a vibration and voice based user interface.

Smartphone chip manufacturer Qualcomm has announced the development of a new mobile phone especially for the visually impaired. The smartphone, called Ray, has been developed by Qualcomm in association with Project Ray, which designs accessibility tools for visually impaired people.

The device employs an especially designed user interface on a Qualcomm Snapdragon powered smartphone which, with the help of gestures and sounds, allows visually impaired people to use the smartphone with great ease.

"The breakthrough UI defines a new language for human device interaction that is built ground-up for eye free operation," said Boaz Zilberman, chief executive officer of Project Ray.

According to its makers, when a user touches any portion of the phone's screen that portion becomes the starting point for selecting an audio book, messaging, or other activity. Navigation is enabled by a few simple finger movements in different directions. The phone's built-in vibration capabilities and voice prompts provide user feedback and the UI learns to adapt with users' behavior based on their preferences and usage patterns.

The Qualcomm Ray smartphone will allow users to access entertainment and information on the go for which they earlier had to rely on other mediums such as books and compact discs. Israel's central library for the blind has created such specific content for these devices, and apart from providing content to the devices, users will be able to download more content from their libraries as well.

"We believe the Project Ray device will enhance the ability of the blind and visually impaired people to access resources and information independently," said Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel for Qualcomm.

Although details about its availability are scarce as of now, the Project Ray website is showing the store opening date as November 20, and we surely hope it will be available in India at the same time.

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