Non-touchscreen phones were a lot easier to incorporate Braille on, the language used by the visually impaired, as compared to touchscreen phones, with the lack of tactile gradients. However, researchers at Georgia Tech have developed a prototype mobile application, which allows users to access Braille on a touchscreen phone. They said that the app can be used for under the table texting at a meeting without anyone knowing or texting while watching television without taking one's eyes off the screen. The prototype application basically provides a way for those using touchscreen mobile devices to text without taking their eyes away from whatever they were focusing on previously. Assuming they know Braille, of course.


Mario Romero, Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Interactive Computing (IC) and the project's principal investigator said, “Research has shown that chorded, or 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 on them.” The application is free and open source and is called BrailleTouch. As the name suggests, the application uses Braille to provide a non-visual approach to texting. Watch a demo of the app in the video above.

Early studies with visually impaired participants proficient in Braille typing have demonstrated that users can input at least six times the number of words per minute, when compared to other research prototypes for eyes-free texting on a touch screen. Users reach up to 32 words per minute with 92 percent accuracy with the prototype app for the iPhone. For sighted users, 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.

The app uses a gesture-based solution by turning the iPhone's touchscreen into a soft-touch keyboard programmed for Braille and requiring only six keys, which allows the app to fit in with the limiting screen size of the device. The key feature of the BrailleTouch technology is the use of the six-key configuration, so that the keyboard fits on the screen and users keep their fingers in a relatively fixed position, while texting. This design allows users to hold their device with the screen facing away from them, cradling the device with their palms or pinkies and thumbs, and to type with a majority of their fingers, identical to typing Braille on a standard keyboard.

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