By Adrian Galbreth
A new type of smartphone app could be set to revolutionise the mobile phone market forever, changing the way that people use the devices and making it easier for the visually impaired to use the handsets.
According to experts at Georgia Tech, they have built a prototype app for touchscreen mobile devices that could become the solution for texting without the need to look at a mobile gadget's screen.
The free open-source app, known as BrailleTouch, incorporates the Braille writing system used by the visually impaired and has been conceived as a texting tool for any of the millions of smartphone phone users worldwide, explained Mario Romero, the project's principal investigator.
As well as helping people with vision problems, the research team is exploring how BrailleTouch could be a universal eyes-free mobile texting app that replaces soft QWERTY keyboards and other texting technologies, explained Mr Romero, who is a postdoctoral fellow at Georgia Tech's School of Interactive Computing.
"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. It also reduces the need for expensive proprietary Braille keyboard devices, which typically cost thousands of dollars," he added.
According to the specialists, the device is designed to address the limitations of soft keyboards, which do not provide tactile feedback, as well as physical keyboards, which often use small and numerous fixed buttons.
Mr Romero explained that BrailleTouch is currently the only iPhone app in existence that uses a six-finger chording process that replicates the traditional Braille keyboard.
He added that the app recently won the MobileHCI 2011 competition for design at the MobileHCI conference in Stockholm, Sweden, and the group working on the project is currently creating Android versions of BrailleTouch, in addition to iPhone and iPad editions.
by Adrian Galbreth