Wednesday, September 21, 2011

FotoBabble: Add Voice To Your Photos

Sharing your photos with people with visual impairment just got a lot more easier and fun. Well, visual impairment may not allow them to see your pictures, but they would still love to hear  about your experiences, right? But what if they are far away from you - a couple of states, maybe an ocean away? That's when FotoBabble comes into the picture. FotoBabble is a web/mobile service that lets you add voice to your pictures. You can sign up for this service (it's free) and use either their website or iPhone app to create pictures with audio descriptions. You can either upload your own picture or choose one from Facebook, and add an audio description (maximum 60 seconds) to it.

Here is picture from FotoBabble with a very good audio description of the picture (click the play button at the bottom left corner of the picture to hear the audio).

Here is a quick tutorial on how to add audio to a picture using FotoBabble.

iPhone app (free): iTunes Store

Source: Mashable

Braille Credit Card (Concept)

Speaking of Braille cards, here is a credit card concept design that shows the amount that has been paid in Braille on the credit card. The designer of this card thinks that having a Braille credit card can provide benefits to visually impaired users in a couple of ways in that with a regular credit card, they have to depend on the person behind the counter telling them what the actual amount to be charged is. The amount that they tell the user may be incorrect. The braille credit card, however, embosses the amount charged on the card so that the user could feel it. Also, the credit card has a built in speaker that can speak out the amount charged at the push of a button.

(click to enlarge)

Hit the source link to read more about this design, and to see more illustrations.

Source: Yankodesign

Another interesting Braille prototype.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Starbucks Braille Card

Our visually impaired friends who are suckers for Starbucks coffee can take advantage of this unique Braille card Starbucks has launched this fall. The card not only has a picture of fall leaves that are changing colors, but also has the word "Starbucks" in Braille at the top of the card. This would help visually impaired people pick the right card from their wallet.

The cards can either be obtained at Satrbucks stores (although the writer of the source article could not find one at her local store), or they can be bought on their website. The card can be charged for $15, $25,  $50, and $100.

Source: Abledbody

Audio Haptic Navigation Environment + Tension + Tacit = ?

Here is AHNE, or Audio Haptic Navigation Environment, which allows users to locate sound in 3D space with a Kinect sensor (using OpenNI and OSCeleton for primarily capturing body movement information through Kinect). The user wears a glove with sensors and motors that helps them locate and manipulate sound in the 3D space.

And here's Tension, another project that uses a Kinect sensor, and is meant for multiple users. Up to five users can use this space simultaneously. When a user enters the space, a specific sound is assigned to him or her, and they can manipulate other sounds depending on their distance from other users.

These two fascinating projects got me thinking. What if we could combine these two with this? Essentially, we would be creating a space where visually impaired people could meet for recreation (music). They could wear the glove for AHNE on one hand and Tacit on the other which would make sure that they don't bump into each other while making awesome music!

This is just an idea that came to me after I read about these projects. What are your thoughts? Is this feasible?

Source: CreateDigitalMusic

Here are some more Kinect related posts.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Audiobooks: Audiobook App for iOS

Audiobooks is very true to its name, and if you like (free) audiobooks, then this is the app for you. Available for both iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad, Audiobooks has over 3,500 classic books available for free. Most of the books come from the LibriVox Project where people from around the world release classic audiobooks that they themselves recorded.

Audiobooks is very intuitive  and easy to use. The first option on the app on the left navigation bar is "Top 50" from where you can choose one of the most popular classic books. You can also search for a book using the search option on the top left corner.

Notice that some of the books are highlighted in green and some in grey. The ones in grey are totally free whereas the ones in green have both free and paid options.

If you choose a book highlighted in green you will get multiple versions of it. The first version is always the paid version. 

There is also an "All A - Z" option that lists all the books this app has. Here, the ones highlighted in grey have both free and paid versions, however, the ones in blue are paid only. There are no free versions of those books available.

This app has a rating of 3/5 on iTunes. I noticed that most of the critical reviewers were looking for modern day books on this app which they obviously did not find. After reading those comments, I think I should mention here again that this app only has classic books. I tried three audiobooks and did not have any problems going through them (not the entire lengths, just bits and pieces for the sake of this blog post). 

The ad supported app is available for free. If you don't want to see ads and access some more features, you can get the app for $.99.

Enhanced Accessibility For Blind Google Users

One thing remarkable about Google is that it is constantly doing its best to make its products more and more accessible. Recently, Google added some more accessibility features and new keyboard shortcuts to make use of Docs, Sites, and Calendar easier for users with visual impairment.

Accessibility in Google Docs and Sites

If you are a Google Docs user, you will hear feedback when you format text, insert tables/labels/comments, upload/download a file etc. In Spreadsheets, you will hear cell location, contents, and comments when you move between cells. You will also hear feedback outside the main content area (menu bar, dialog box, chat pane etc.).

In sites, you will hear feedback when you navigate through your site, add/edit pages, and navigate through menus and dialog boxes.

To read more about the enhanced features in Docs and Sites, click here.

Keyboard shortcuts for Google documents.

Keyboard shortcuts for spreadsheets.

Keyboard shortcuts for documents list.

Keyboard shortcuts for Sites.

Improved Accessibility in Google Calendars

Accessibility has been enhanced for calendar lists, agenda view, and guest lists, as well as new shortcuts have been added to make Google Calendars easier to use. To read about these enhanced accessibility features, click here.

To read more about accessibility provided by Google, go to their accessibility page.

Adding accessibility features to its products is an ongoing process at Google. I will keep you updated about more accessible features as and when they are announced.

Source: Google Docs Blog

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tacit: A Device To Help Blind People Move Around

Tacit (The Tacit Project), the brain child of Steve Hoefer,  is a glove like accessory that can help blind and visually impaired people navigate without bumping into obstacles. Still a prototype, Tacit uses ultrasonic sensors that determine the distance between the user and an obstacle. There are primarily three components that Tacit uses:

Ultrasonic sensors that send out ultrasonic pulses. These pulses hit obstacles and deflect back to the sensors.

A Microcontroller that detects the amount of time for the ultrasonic pulses to return, and tells the

Servo Motors to rotate with varying amounts of pressure.

The closer the distance, the more pressure is applied by the servo motors on the wrist. At a time, either the left or right servo motor would rotate, letting the user know where the obstacle is.

The diagram above suggests that Tacit is powered by a 9V battery.

Steve has released this project under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license, which means that anyone can learn from this prototype, modify it, and make it better, and share the information (and let him know if anyone plans to sell the modified product). Steve thinks that lasers would perhaps provide better results but at the same time make the product much more expensive. The total cost of raw materials used for Tacit is $65.

To read more technical details and to get the source code, click here.

Source: Physorg

[Thanks, Travis!]

Click here to read more posts related to visual impairment. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

DeafYouVideo: A Great Website For People With Hearing Impairment

I recently stumbled upon a website called DeafYouVideo  (, and was amazed by the kind of resources it has for people with hearing impairment. This website is "video heavy", and contains a lot of Youtube videos that specifically have been made for deaf people. This website has ten main sections.

Home - This is where the most recent blog post (with a video) can be found. These blog posts are about deaf people, interpreters, parents of deaf children, and bullying, to list a few. Other blog posts can be found in the "Recent Posts" section on the right bar, along with the "Most watched videos" right under the blog post. All the videos can be found in the "Video Archive" section which shows up at the bottom of every page if you keep scrolling down.

ASL: This section lists some really useful ASL resources. It primarily contains Youtube videos that teach sign language (American, British, Russian; songs etc.), and has links to businesses that provide these services.

Deaf Comedy: This section has some really entertaining and funny videos! Most of the videos have either captions or people interacting in sign language, or both. Some videos that do not have either are still funny to watch because there are no dialogues in them.

Here's one which I thought was funny!

Deaf Events: A short yet important list. I was particularly impressed by the very fist listing - H3 TV which broadcasts in sign language. Their website is Do check it out! The other listings are for a company that specializes in cruises for deaf groups, a travel guide for deaf people, and Deaflympics.

Deaf TV: Another list of websites that has videos for the deaf. This one's a longer list, and has H3TV on it too. Honestly, I did not know that there are so many websites that host videos for deaf people. One website that caught my attention on this list was I did not sign up for it to explore its features, but it is a social video networking website for deaf people. I am curious about it now.

Deaf Way:  Another list of resources for the deaf - It has links to Gallaudet University ( undergraduate school for deaf and hard of hearing students), and various other associations, activists, workshops for the deaf etc.

Deaf Youtube: Another set of Youtube videos (I told you this is a "video heavy" website!) that has a lot of people communicating using sign language.

VRS: This is a list of many Video Relay Service providers.

Video Games: Not necessarily for the deaf, but very fun to play!

Last, but certainly not the least, there are quite many deaf comic strips on every page for our amusement!

So, if you, or someone you know, is deaf,  check this website out. It brings a lot of fun, entertainment, and education!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Prosthetics Of The Future

Ever wonder what's happening in the prosthetics world? How advanced prosthetic/ bionic body parts are, and what kind of things they can do already? Is the human leg or arm the ultimate benchmark against which these prosthetics are measured? Or can we go a step ahead and make something that is even better than the natural body parts?

Watch this video (which is a promotional video for a new game called Deus Ex) to see a guy, Rob Spence, who lost his right eye as a youngster, with a video camera installed in his right artificial eye (which was named one of the 50 best inventions of 2009). He travels around the world and meets people who have bionic body parts (eyes, arms, legs) who explain how their prosthetics function, and if they are even better than the "real thing". 

Note: Video contains a few graphic scenes.

Go here to read more about Rob Spence's Eyeborg project.

Source: Popsci

[Thanks, Travis!]