Israelis come up with smartphone for the blind

A small team of Israeli entrepreneurs has come with the world’s first smartphone for the visually impaired. 

Project Ray, as the team calls it, was originally conceived as a way of helping the Israeli Library for the Blind get its services to a wider audience. Michael Vakulenko, Boaz Zilberman and Arik Siegel started volunteering for the library three years ago and soon realised that they could put their expertise to good use. 

Along the way they got some help from Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach Initiative and they eventually came up with an affordable device that should be easy to use, reports

Vakulenko pointed out that visually impaired persons rely on a multitude of gadgets and most of them don’t come cheap. He noted that they also have to drag along a whole suitcase of expensive accessories. The whole idea of Project Ray is to replace that suitcase with a powerful, cloud connected smartphone.

Their biggest challenge was coming up with a way of allowing users to use flat touchscreens without sight, he added. They eventually cracked it, with no proprietary hardware, which means the solution can be used on off-the-shelf smartphones. 

People need just 30 minutes of training to get to grips with the new UI. It relies on audio prompted commands and users select apps and commands by lifting the finger off the screen. In addition to texting and GPS, the phone also features a colour detection app that helps users match their clothing, along with a banknote app to identify money. 

The team is now looking for investors to bring the platform to North America, Europe and other markets.