According to a recent press release, researchers at Georgia Tech have developed a prototype app for smartphones that allows anyone that’s proficient in Braille typing to type and send messages without looking at the screen. Named BrailleTouch, the free open-source application is designed to be used with the front of the phone facing away from the user and both hands placed on either side of the phone. According to the description by the research team, users “cradle the device with their palms and type with a majority of their fingers, identical to typing Braille on a standard keyboard.”
During the initial studies of the application, the researchers found that visually impaired users were able to type six times faster when compared to other research prototypes. These users were able to type up to 32 words per minute and averaged a 92 percent accuracy rating. According to researchers, BrailleTouch replicates the traditional Braille keyboard with a “six-finger chording process” and is unique to any other tool on the iPhone.
While this type of solution would be extremely helpful for visually impaired users in terms of extra equipment costs and portability of those Braille keyboard devices, the researchers are also looking into how this product would be rolled out to sighted users. While sighted users would have to learn how to type in Braille, this application could hypothetically be used within the workplace during meetings. By keeping the smartphone underneath a conference room table, the employee could type out a note or text without appearing distracted by a smartphone.
In addition to completing iPhone and iPad versions of BrailleTouch, the research team is currently working on an Android version of the software as well. BrailleTouch is being shown off at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta this weekend during the 2012 Abilities Expo.