Georgie: Android Smartphone for the Blind

Android Accessibility API exposes a lot of features that enable developers to design almost all applications in such a way that they can be used by the Blind people, without much work.

Android has accessibility features built ground up. Its integrated into the system’s core and makes it possible for almost anyone to use the phone no matter what kind of disability it is. With Android ICS & Jellybean, the Accessibility goes even more deeper and the potential is immense.

Well, there’s a new Smartphone in the market that has been designed exclusively for the blind. Powered by Android, the suite of applications are designed by the blind and visually impaired, for the blind and visually impaired. The phone has been designed by Sight and Sound Technology and they named the Smartphone Georgie.

Georgie uses Android’s Accessibility assistant for letting the blind interact with the phone. It speaks the current events (like Android’s native Talkback) and takes instructions from the blind user. In a way, this can be considered to be operating like Siri. But Georgie does much more and such features are exclusive to it.

Truth be told, most features Georgie has to offer are taken from ICS & Jellybean Accessibility features, ported to all versions of Android. There are some enhancements, but its still based on Google’s innovation for making the Android accessible to everyone. e.g. Georgie is smart enough to skip places around you that have low hanging branches. It can recommend points of interests, all again based on Google Maps local API.

Georgie offers OCR (optical character recognition), so you can hold your camera up to a sign or menu and have it read it back to you. There’s wide set of things you can do with it. You can ask what weather it is now, which direction the bus is moving, what is the ETA to destination, and in case the blind user is lost, there’s an assistance button that can pressed in case of an emergency, alerting a family member to the person’s location.

Georgie-specific phones can be bought for prices around £299 and in case you already own an android device, it can run on it as a background app just of £149.

Smartphones are complex for visually impaired people, nevertheless, Georgie is the first successful attempt to help the Blind in taking the best out of Smartphones.

Georgie overlooks one feature of touchscreens that make them particularly difficult for the blind to use–their physical smoothness. To that end, Georgie (or Android manufacturers) may eventually want to pair up with Tactus, a company that allows smartphones to essentially morph into a physical keyboard, using a special type of oil that can harden into buttons. When you tap an icon, it reads out to you just which icon you pressed; hold it a bit longer to confirm your selection, this is more or less native Android’s feature slightly modified to work better. It doesn’t stop there, other companies like Senseg are also experimenting with the field of “haptics,” or touch, in mobile computing.

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