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Six women, all undergraduate engineering students at MIT, won last year’s MakeMIT Hackathon by creating a device that can easily change the world for people who are blind.
They call themselves Team-Tactile, and they did something that should have been done a long time ago.
They created a device that is the size of a candy bar. It has a camera on the back, it runs OCR software, and it has 36cells of refreshable braille on the front. You just move the device, for now called Tactile, over printed text, and it is immediately displayed in braille on the front. Think about what an improvement this is over current methods of taking pictures, waiting for OCR software to convert to text, and then having to have a very expensive braille device connected to whatever you used to take the picture and convert to text.
The team only had 15 hours to create this device during the hackathon competition, and it only costs around one hundred dollars.
The problem in the braille display market is that no one has been motivated to create anything new and affordable. We are still using technology that is decades old, and the cost for these devices are in the thousands of dollars. It is about time that new options come to those who desperately need it. Only 10% of blind people can read braille, 70% of blind people are unemployed, and 80% of blind people who are employed can read braille. You do the math. Having easy access to braille material directly correlates to a more educated and productive blind community.
The team at Google Brain has come up with a way to take low resolution pictures and turn them into images that look like high resolution photos. Now I know what you are asking. Google has a division called Google brain? I know, that must be the coolest job in the world.
The team uses a neural network that gathers countless images, and approximates what the low-resolution image should look like based on the high resolutions it is using as a comparison. They don’t always get it right, but they are in the early stages. What does always happen is the resolution of the images is vastly improved without the normal blurred edges that accompany previous attempts to enhance a photos image resolution.
This can prove to be very important for people with visual impairments who need to enhance an image without causing distortion. The full paper on the project from Google Brain can be found here.
Google announced a new version of Chromevox, called ChromeVox Next. The older version of ChromeVox, now called ChromeVox Classic, remains for those who do not wish to make the switch to the new version. Some of the changes are so simplistic, you might wonder why they weren’t part of the original screen reader. For example; the modifier key is now search, instead of shift+search. The new version seems to be in line with current standards, and I recommend giving it a try. Here are a few details from the developer, along with a very helpful video.
A team at Purdue University in Indiana has developed a haptic device that lets blind people feel images generated by a microscope. It has always been a huge undertaking to help the blind understand microscopic images. Sometimes, a sighted person just must describe it, which is problematic sense each description differs, and the blind person can’t always understand the description. Also, tactile images can be created and labelled in braille, but this is labor intensive and requires a sighted individual with the knowledge, time, and skill to do it.
This new device is a haptic feedback joystick that plugs into a computer that also has a microscope connected to it. It has been tested on red and white blood cells. The blind person navigates the cell with the joystick, and receives a pushback when encountering a cell wall, and different vibrations when hovering over different textured objects.
So far, tests have indicated that a blind person can identify the difference between a white and red blood cell more accurately using this device than by means of other methods.
Peter Korn, an accessibility architect at Amazon, recently announced that the Fire TV and Amazon video app will receive updates that provide new accessibility enhancements for blind and low vision customers. The full details of the update are detailed below.
Until now, Facebook’s photo captions were only able to use nouns to describe objects in pictures posted online. That’s okay, if you are only interested in the objects in the photos. But what if you are interested in the actions that take place in the images?
Facebook has added twelve verbs to its neural network that provide for more detailed description of the contents of all those photos on their website.
Per Facebook’s applied machine learning leader Joaquin Candela, image descriptions will now include things like people walking, people dancing, people riding horses, and people playing instruments,
It’s a good thing when blind people are provided with more information, especially on Facebook, where many feel excluded by a social network that communicates mainly by posting photos.
Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 will continue to receive security updates, but there will be no more updates to the operating system.
In other news, Android 7.1.2 has been released in beta to the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, Nexus 5X, and Nexus Player. The Nexus 6P will receive the update soon.
If you wish to enroll your device in the Android Beta program, you can do so here. If you wish to flash Android 7.1.2 on to your device, you can find the images here.
Today, Microsoft released Windows 10 build 15025 for those users participating in the insider program. I am happy to let you know that braille support for Narrator has finally arrived. Jenny Lay-Flurrie, in an exclusive announcement to Cool Blind Tech, revealed back in November that braille support for Narrator was coming to Windows 10, and now We can give it a test run. Dona Sarkar also revealed that mono audio mode has been added to Ease of Access which allows you to listen to audio content using only one earbud without missing out on any other content. Read the release note for accessibility improvements below.