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How BrailleTouch Works


A Far-sighted App
The app does work on tablets, but the input system isn’t as natural as with a smartphone’s smaller screen, which naturally guides the user’s fingers to the correct spots.
The app does work on tablets, but the input system isn’t as natural as with a smartphone’s smaller screen, which naturally guides the user’s fingers to the correct spots.
Courtesy Georgia Tech

BrailleTouch works differently depending on whether you install it to an Android device or an Apple device featuring iOS (Apple's mobile operating system). On the former, the app can stand in as an input keyboard across all apps that you've installed to your device. On the latter, though, it works only as a standalone app because iOS doesn't allow users to choose an alternate input keyboard.

No matter which phone you have, BrailleTouch is always ready to go to work. Most modern smartphones change the orientation of their screens so the display is right-side up, whether the phone is vertical or horizontal. Similarly, BrailleTouch autorotates to the correct position so that you can input commands no matter how you're holding the device.

Language barriers, though, could continue to be an issue for some time yet. Braille is available in all widespread languages, but the most recent release of BrailleTouch works only in English. That may change, however, as the developers continue to update the software.

Language restrictions aside, even during its development phase, the app garnered attention from major media outlets. It also won the MobileHCI (Mobile Human-Computer Interaction) 2011 Design Competition in Stockholm. The accolades and interest show that even in today's tech-saturated world, Braille may continue to help visually-impaired people communicate.

That's in spite of the increasing accuracy and speed of text-to-speech applications and the fact that less than 20 percent of the United States' visually-impaired community can read Braille fluently. What's more, the audio-feedback feature of BrailleTouch may help popularize the app with sighted users who want a different way to compose their messages.

That's not to say that BrailleTouch is great for every situation. The app's developers emphasize that their creation is not safe for use when you're behind the wheel, even if your eyes are still on the road. Writing e-mails during your morning commute is just downright dangerous, as these activities demand too many of your brain's cognitive abilities.

For stationary, automobile-less texting, BrailleTouch is an innovative, speedy app.


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