It has only been a few months since Stevie Wonder was at CES to ask the phone industry to make the handsets more accessible to the blind, but it looks like it’s starting to catch on.
Dialing on a touchscreen can be a huge pain, even with full vision. Take eyesight out of the equation, and the lack of tactility makes things pretty much unmanageable. Two Google engineers have banded together to form “EyesFree“, a dev team devoted to “creating applications for Android that help change people’s lives.” That’s a big promise to make, but they’ve already started living up to it. Already having premiered a talking dialer, talking compass, and a text-to-speech library, they’re now demonstrating “Stroke Dialer”, which removes the need to see the screen by making all key pad presses relative.
Confused? Think of it this way: you know a phone’s layout. If you knew which key you were on, you could determine which direction you’d have to move your finger to get to any other key. With Stroke Dialer, wherever you put your finger on the touchscreen becomes the location of the 5. Release the press, and you’ve pressed 5. If you slide your finger in the direction of another number before releasing, however, you’ve pressed the relative key. Press down and move up? That’s a 2. Press down and move down? That’s an 8.
Why not just use voice dialing? Accuracy, presumably. Voice recognition is getting better and better all the time, but it still tends to trip up an unfortunate amount. Plus – sometimes it just feels good to actually dial a number, rather than tell creepy-robot-voice lady which number to dial for you.