App can help the blind to text on phones

Feb. 22, 2012 at 2:43 PM
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ATLANTA, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say a new smartphone app, based on the Braille writing system, will help blind people send texts using touchscreen mobile devices.

The BrailleTouch app, developed at Georgia Tech, will provide access to the technology of texting, a growing issue for the visually-impaired due to the proliferation of touchscreens, a university release said.

BrailleTouch uses a system that is controlled with six fingers and, crucially, does not require any movement of the hands.

"BrailleTouch is an out-of-the-box solution that will work with smartphones and tablets and allow users to start learning the Braille alphabet in a few minutes," lead researcher Mario Romero said. "It also reduces the need for expensive proprietary Braille keyboard devices, which typically cost thousands of dollars."

Users hold the phone with the screen facing away from them in landscape mode and wrap the index, middle and ring finger in each hand around the phone and place them on the screen, he said.

The app uses a gesture-based solution by turning a touchscreen into a soft-touch keyboard programmed for Braille and requiring just six keys, making it a practical solution for the limited screen real estate on smartphones, he said.

The researchers said they have completed an iPhone version and are working on an Android version.

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