Braille keyboard for iPhone developed

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Tuesday, 21 February 2012 11:45am

Researchers at Georgia Tech have developed BrailleTouch, a prototype iPhone app that allows people who are blind or vision impaired to send text messages using an onscreen Braille keyboard.

Braille is a tactile writing system for people who are blind or vision impaired. A Braille keyboard allows users to enter Braille characters by pressing several keys together, like playing a chord on a piano. There are six keys on a Braille keyboard, each of which equate to one of the six dots that make up a Braille character.

BrailleTouch uses the same six-key configuration, with three keys represented as dots located down the left-hand side of the touchscreen and three keys down the right-hand side. Users can hold their device with the screen facing away from them, supporting the screen with the thumb and pinky finger while typing with the rest of their fingers. Users press multiple keys at once to type the desired Braille character just like on a Braille keyboard.

Early studies have shown that vision impaired users proficient in Braille typing can input up to 32 words per minute with 92% accuracy, which is six times the number of words per minute compared with other eyes-free methods of text input. The research team is also exploring how sighted users could use BrailleTouch as a replacement for the standard QWERTY keyboard.

BrailleTouch’s developers are not the first researchers to investigate alternatives to the QWERTY keyboard for touchscreen devices. The Stroke Dialler is an alternative to the onscreen QWERTY keyboard for Android users that is based on a standard phone keypad interface [1-9]. The Stroke Dialler is used in a number of different Android apps available from the Android MarketPlace.

For more information about BrailleTouch, see the media release from Georgia Tech or watch the video demonstrating BrailleTouch.

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