VizWiz: Nearly Realtime Answers to Visual Questions.
The lack of access to visual information like text labels, icons, and colors can cause frustration and decrease independence for blind people.
VizWiz is a project application aimed at enabling blind people to recruit remote sighted workers to help them with visual problems in nearly real-time. Users take a picture with their phone, speak a question, and then receive multiple spoken answers.
With the web as their eyes, the blind will able to read menus, identify canned foods, and tell whether that park has any free benches without having to walk over.
Google's Android platform and the Apple iPhone 3GS now include free screen readers. The iPhone has proven particularly popular among blind users, which motivated the developers to concentrate on it for VizWiz. Apple's stringent controls on the applications available on its online store and tighter integration of its screen reader (VoiceOver) with the operating system has resulted in a large number of accessible applications.
Touchscreen devices like the iPhone were once assumed to be inaccessible to blind users, but well-designed, multi-touch interfaces leverage the spatial layout of the screen and can even be preferred by blind people.
VizWiz, which is being tested by teams of blind volunteers, hasn't left the lab yet. But the volunteers are fans: it would be "very useful," one said (via New Scientist), "because I get so frustrated when I need sighted help and no one is there." Though an in-depth study on VizWiz was released last year, there's no word yet from the scientists on when this will hit the market.
For more information visit vizwiz.org and www.cs.rochester.edu/u/jbigham/papers/vizwizuist/vizwiz.pdf