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WearaBraille update - connecting to VoiceOver on the iPhone

posted Jun 2, 2011, 4:33 PM by Owen Edwards   [ updated Sep 7, 2011, 11:16 AM ]
When we started the WearaBraille project, we imagined that it would connect to smartphones as though it was a normal QWERTY Bluetooth keyboard. We wanted to minimize the need for software drivers or special apps, and we believed we could handle the conversion from Grade 1 Braille (actually, Computer Braille) to the equivalent QWERTY characters. A lot of people asked about support for Grade 2 Braille, but we didn't think it made sense to put that level of complexity into the device.  We also weren't sure what operations beyond text entry and simple cursor movement we could support.

Last year, having been impressed by VoiceOver on the iPhone, we saw that VoiceOver supports Bluetooth Braille displays (most of which include a Braille keyboard), and realized that we could talk to an iPhone in a different manner.  After adding emulation of a Bluetooth Braille device to the WearaBraille prototype, we can now enter Grade 1 and Grade 2 Braille; in addition, we can navigate between applications and fields on the iPhone, turn the volume up or down, and even answer a phone call!  Check out the YouTube video on the main WearaBraille page.

We're looking at whether we can provide this level of access to an Android phone.  We have written a simple app which supports Grade 1 entry to demonstrate the concept, but until Android has a comprehensive screen-reader, it doesn't make sense to build out complete support for Braille input. We are keen to collaborate with Android developers who are working on screen-reader applications.
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