Qualcomm, the world’s largest designer of chips for mobile phones, and Project Ray, which designs accessibility tools for blind and visually impaired people, have announced that they have developed the Ray mobile device, an always-on, easy-to-use, multi-function, smartphone that is synchronized select audio books content.
“We believe the Project Ray device will enhance the ability of blind and visually impaired people to access resources and information independently. This project, which is part of our Wireless Reach initiative, demonstrates one of the many ways Qualcomm technology can improve people’s lives and we are proud to support this important program,” said Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel for Qualcomm.
Today, the majority of blind and visually impaired people use simple 2G mobile phones for voice telephony only. In addition, they depend on an array of specialty devices, such as audio book-readers, color readers, navigation tools, raised Braille labels, special bar-code scanners, and large-buttoned, voice-enabled MP3 players which are prohibitively expensive.
Based on an off-the-shelf Android OS smartphone powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the Project Ray device integrates the capabilities of smartphone technology and the capabilities of these multiple specialty devices into a single, cost-effective handset with 24/7 mobile broadband connectivity and a UI designed for eye-free interaction. A trial project is currently underway that is testing the new system with 100 participants throughout Israel. The UI supports a rich set of services, including phone calls, text messaging with vocal read-out, navigation, object recognition, social network services, remote assistance, audio-book reading, and other leisure and entertainment offerings.
“The breakthrough UI defines a new language for human-device interaction that is built ground-up for eye-free operation. The user touches any position on the screen and that position 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 its behavior based on users’ preferences and usage patterns,” said Boaz Zilberman, chief executive officer of Project Ray.
According to the World Health Organization, 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 have low vision. About 65% of all people who are visually impaired are aged 50 and older, while this age group comprises about 20% of the world’s population. With an increasing elderly population in many countries, more people will be at risk of age-related visual impairment.