Smartphones have now gotten so advanced and powerful that it's used for a myriad of simple to complex everyday tasks, but a lot of visually impaired folks cannot take advantage of these useful features. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 285 million people with impaired eyesight, and most of them use multiple devices that are designed to be eyes-free. To that end, an eyes-free mobile device equipped with an Android OS is currently being co-developed by Qualcomm and Project Ray, with the goal of harnessing a smartphone's power that utilizes features built especially for the visually impaired.
Qualcomm's plan is to integrate a full featured Android phone that includes phone calls, text messaging with voice read-out, audio book reading, navigation, objection detection and many other applications. Users navigate through the touch-based UI using finger swipes that are accentuated by voice feedback and vibration for assistance. Like its retail-version siblings, the device will also adjust settings according to usage patterns and preferences. While testing is currently underway in Israel with 100 participants, the Ray prototype still has a long way to go before it becomes a true smartphone for the visually handicapped, but it is certainly taking steps in the right direction.