This Startup Has Built A New Kind Of Smartphone For The Blind
A touchscreen just doesn't have enough tactile clues for a blind person to navigate and voice commands are infuriatingly awful. They mishear the voice, are drowned out by background noise, and otherwise cumbersome to use.
Enter serial Israeli startup founder Boaz Zilberman and Project Ray. Zilberman has created a Android operating system designed for the blind. The first unlocked phones were recently released for the Israeli and European markets, and were built by Huawei. In June, they'll be arriving in the U.S. via an as yet-unnamed carrier, available either unlocked or as part of a contract.The phones were specially designed around a touch system that every blind person, knows, the 12-key number pad. Every screen has the apps and commands arranged in a square. Simply move the finger and the phone reads the command. Lift the finger off and it executes the command. (Here's a YouTube video in Hebrew with English subtitles that shows the Project-Ray phone in action.)
Zilberman is the founder of Fring, a Facetime-like app with 100 million users worldwide that lets you chat or make video calls. It was one of the first apps of this kind and is so easy-to-use it is popular with the blind and vision impaired.
"I'm known in Israel as an entrepreneur in mobile. People from the blind community approached me with a few questions and it triggered up a complete product," he says.
The worldwide market of blind people is small, he says, so the project is more of a labor of love right now. But eventually, he'll expand this version of Android to tablets and add features that make it appropriate for the vision-impaired, people who need large-screen readers and other visual cues. Beyond that, the tech also has implications in other ways, like as an interface while driving.