Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Can technology make a hearing-centric world more accessible?

Most humans live in a hearing-centric world, which means that the needs and preferences of people who are deaf or people who have some form of hearing loss are often overlooked. But some people are trying to change that — and they're using technology to do it.
On this week's episode of Top Shelf, you'll see how Gallaudet University researchers are using motion capture technology and interactive apps to ensure that children who are deaf are exposed to language at an early age. Then, you'll meet the owner of Digital Media Services — a company that does closed captioning for Hulu, Netflix, and even Nicki Minaj music videos. Finally, you'll get a glimpse at the changes taking place in the world of hearing aids.

    A world that's truly accessible is one that's adaptable — and inclusive. We aren't there yet, but it's still pretty amazing to see what can happen when technology and human creativity come together.

    Friday, August 7, 2015

    New smartwatch displays texts in braille

    A new smartwatch could allow vision impaired smartphone users to check their messages without having to play them out loud.
    The Dot is a tiny wearable with perforated holes featuring magnets and pins inside that rise to form the content of messages in braille, making them much easier to read for the vision-impaired. So when a user receives a text message, corresponding dots pop up in braille and he or she can run their finger along the watch to read the text.
    The device comes from a Korean startup of the same name looking to make new technology more accessible.

    Often times, visually-impaired people rely on a smartphone's speaker to read messages out loud, but the method is not very private and could disturb others in public. However, the smartwatch allows visually-impaired users to read their texts discretely.
    “Until now, if you got a message on iOS from your girlfriend, for example, you had to listen to Siri read it to you in that voice, which is impersonal,” Dot CEO Eric Ju Yoon Kim toldTech in Asia. “Wouldn’t you rather read it yourself and hear your girlfriend’s voice saying it in your head?”
    Aside from text messages, the wearable also relays directions and can serve as an alarm. Of course, it tells the time too. There are other helpful features such as haptic engine to buzz on a user's wrist when a new message is received.
    There's another big improvement with this device over existing tech: cost. A portable computer that can relay messages in braille can cost up to $3,000, while the Dot will retail for $300 when it launches in December. It will sync up with both iOS and Android devices via Bluetooth.