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Georgia Tech iPhone App Could Help Blind Users Text 60

Posted by samzenpus
from the text-time dept.
MojoKid writes "Researchers at Georgia Tech university have built a prototype app for touch-screen mobile devices that is vying to be a complete solution for texting without the need to look at a mobile gadget's screen. In theory, it should greatly help the blind interact with mobile phones, but it could help just about anyone looking for a more efficient way to interact. Research has shown that gesture-based texting is a viable solution for eyes-free written communication in the future, making obsolete the need for users to look at their devices while inputting text. The free open-source app, called BrailleTouch, incorporates the Braille writing system used by the visually impaired. Early studies with visually impaired participants proficient in Braille typing have demonstrated that users can input up to 32 words per minute with 92 percent accuracy with the prototype app for the iPhone."

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Georgia Tech iPhone App Could Help Blind Users Text

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  • by geekoid (135745) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `dnaltropnidad'> on Monday February 20, 2012 @02:10AM (#39097531) Homepage Journal

    more people driving and texting~

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Zibodiz (2160038)
      I think using this for driving while texting would be counterintuitive for two reasons: First, it takes both hands. Swype only takes one. Second, the average person who knows braille probably doesn't do too much driving in the first place. If they did, I think texting would be the least of our worries.
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Second, the average person who knows braille probably doesn't do too much driving in the first place.

        I can think of several reasons why someone might know Braille and be sighted. And no, it doesn't mean they read Braille with their finger - you can read Braille with sight in most cases. The easiest reason would be someone transcribing something into Braille, and someone editing transcripted text (to ensure no mistakes/typos were made). Perhaps someone making their website accessible might also want to chec

        • by Zibodiz (2160038)
          That, my friend, is brilliant. You finally gave me an excuse to learn Morse. And here I thought raw binary communication was was outdated.
    • even better, we can finally get pictures of blind people's junk.

  • This would be great for me, if only I knew braille. I would love to be able to text on my smartphone without looking -- that's the biggest regret I have for switching away from my old clamshell. I could text about 50wpm without looking on that thing. Swype is okay, but it's rather difficult without looking.
    • by hcs_$reboot (1536101) on Monday February 20, 2012 @02:19AM (#39097561)
      Why don't you learn braille? It's much easier for you to learn braille, than for blind people to learn how to read a newspaper!
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday February 20, 2012 @03:42AM (#39097771)

        Some alternate forms of communication are fairly hard since they are a whole new language. Sign language is like that. You have to learn symbols for words, and the grammar and vocabulary are not the same as English. So learning it is as difficult as learning a foreign language, more perhaps since it is visual not auditory.

        However Braille is just character mapping. Things are spelled the same, they are just using a different character set. So all you have to do is learn how to understand the characters, or rather the feel of them, and you are good.

        There are some abbreviations for more advanced Braille, but that comes later. The basics are just what dot patters equal what letters. Really not very hard to learn.

    • by Zibodiz (2160038)
      I should point out that my 'blind texting' isn't so much for when I'm driving, but more simply because I feel like I've lost a few IQ points having to stare at the keyboard. I haven't had to look at my laptop keyboard for the better part of a decade -- why on earth should I need to look at my phone to type there?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      ... I would love to be able to text on my smartphone without looking ....

      There are a few speech to text apps out there that will allow you to do that: ShoutOut [android.com], Sonalight Text by Voice [android.com] and VLingo Virtual Assistant [android.com]

    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      One of the reasons I have a smart phone with a hardware keyboard.

      Hardware keyboard <3

  • Assistive devices (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Crizp (216129) <chris@eveley.net> on Monday February 20, 2012 @02:21AM (#39097571) Homepage

    I thought the iPhone supported most assistive devices, like braille keyboards, and "reading sticks" (those that can pop up a line of braille using small nubs, dunno what they're called in English) already?

    • by dissy (172727)

      I thought the iPhone supported most assistive devices, like braille keyboards, and "reading sticks"

      Yes, those devices typically show as bluetooth keyboards/HID devices, so are supported on any BT enabled smart phone.

      But that doesn't preclude yet another such device, and especially one that doesn't require additional hardware. I hear such hardware addons are rather expensive.

      • by ByOhTek (1181381)

        Adaptive equipment is generally very expensive expensive compared to non adaptive equipment of similar materials/complexity.

        However, I'm curious, where the hell can you find a smart phone that doesn't have bluetooth? Heck, at this point, I would expect it to be a major challenge to find any cell phone less than 3-4 years old without bluetooth.

        • by dissy (172727)

          However, I'm curious, where the hell can you find a smart phone that doesn't have bluetooth? Heck, at this point, I would expect it to be a major challenge to find any cell phone less than 3-4 years old without bluetooth.

          Funny you mention that. When I first typed out my post, it did have a similar comment in it: "(Do they even make non bluetooth smart phones anymore?)", but I ended up cutting it out.
          I have not seen a smart phone without bluetooth support in a very very long time.

          I know there are still basic "dumb" phones that do not include it for price reasons, and yet others that do have it but limited to audio only.
          But you need to look at the "$20 or less" types to find such a phone.

          Verizon used to have some low end pho

  • My blind friend (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRedDuke (1734262) on Monday February 20, 2012 @02:23AM (#39097575)
    uses an older flip phone with an old-fashioned dialing pad. He texts by sound and feel, and faster than I can on my keyboard-less smartphone. Oh, and he paid $100 less for his phone and $20 less per month thanks to the fact that he doesn't NEED an iPhone or a data plan. While I feel like the research might have its heart in the right place, a much simpler solution appears to already exist.
    • Thirty years ago, we had a friend who had programmed his COSMAC VIP (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COSMAC_VIP [wikipedia.org] ...) to accept Morse code for I/O. He was a blind ham radio operator, hence Morse was easy for him to use. Actually, never did find out how he got the program in there in the first place ... but in any case, there's a simple input method which only requires one hand (even only 1 finger) and which people have used at 55 wpm and higher.

      • by ByOhTek (1181381)

        That's perfect for blind people surfing for porn!

        What, it keeps the other hand free, doesn't it?

    • My blind friend uses an older flip phone with an old-fashioned dialing pad. He texts by sound and feel, and faster than I can on my keyboard-less smartphone.

      Most Filipinos can text blind.

    • Serious questions here. The lifespan for cell phones are fairly short. Designs come and go. Eventually, he will have to have it replaced. My only question is how fast of a learner is he? How long would it take him to get used to an entirely new flip phone with the differences in tactile feedback and button placement?

  • I'm not blind... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pongo000 (97357) on Monday February 20, 2012 @03:28AM (#39097737)

    ...and I can't even come close to 32wpm on my smartphone (I tend to fat-finger my letters and spend more time back-spacing or looking for auto-completed words than typing). I've tried all the various gimmicks such as Swype and T9, but if this system is really netting users 30+wpm, I think it's time for me to learn Braille.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20, 2012 @04:36AM (#39097881)

    There are already several versions available on android.
    http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2011/10/18/new-app-turns-a-tablet-into-a-braille-keyboard/

    And specially this one:
    http://www.ankitdaf.com/projects/BrailleType/

    Georgia tech is basically ripping off this guy.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You do not seem to understand the concept of 'Georgia Tech,' 'ripping off,' or braille type on a mobile device.

      That stuff you link to costs 300 dollars. GT researchers have built a prototype that can be used by anyone, not just the blind. Your links, by the way, use the same writing system, so if GT is "ripping someone off," its not a tablet app.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Isn't that what Siri does anyway?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The school responsible for this work is the Georgia Institute of Technology, not Georgia Tech University.

    • by Algae_94 (2017070)
      Yes, Commonly referred to as Georgia Tech. Considering the summary did not capitalize the word "university" they may have said "Georgia Tech university" and meant: "Georgia Tech, which happens to be a university". Your attention to details of the English language make me question any association you may have to the school.

      The article does not mention it at all, but I would wager this was actually done at the Georgia Tech Research Institute.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Sorry folks. I know this isn't really the point of the topic, but it's the Georgia Institute of Technology not the Georgia Tech University. Probably not a big deal to most folks, but it irks me for some reason.
  • Institute (Score:4, Informative)

    by ckhorne (940312) on Monday February 20, 2012 @10:17AM (#39099501)

    It's the Georgia *Institute* of Technology, not a university. /pendantic /alum

    • by Rudolf (43885)

      It's the Georgia *Institute* of Technology, not a university. /pendantic /alum

      http://www.gatech.edu/about/ [gatech.edu]
      According to their webpage they are a university. Maybe you should take your complaint to the webmaster.

    • by Algae_94 (2017070)
      Naming aside, it is an actual university. The name just does not include that word. The common definition of a university is a school for higher learning that has a graduate division that awards masters and doctorate degrees as well as an undergraduate division.
  • Seriously? Seriously?!?! Why is this necessary? I really don't get texting. It's such a backward form of communication. Star Trek never used texting. Space: 1999 had video chatting. I personally refuse to text and don't have a texting plan on my phone. If I need to talk to someone, I'll make a regular phone call. It's more efficient for getting a straight answer and you'll have a much better idea of the emotional component to communication.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    But what about those who lack the coordination or motor skills to type multi-chord keys? For them, Georgia Tech (or someone) needs to develop an app along roughly these lines:

    Swipe to Type

    Here’s an alternate text input technique for the iPhone and similar devices that might be faster and more accurate for many people. It uses a feature the iPhone already has, a multi-touch screen, rather than external hardware such as a collapsible Bluetooth keyboard. You not only don’t have to look at the scree

  • I thought dictation was the way to go. Of course, Apple must add support for more languages.
    Oh sorry, this is slashdot, I posted a pro-Apple comment. Shoot me.

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