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Qualcomm, Project RAY develop smartphone for the visually impaired

Qualcomm and Project RAY have announced the creation of a smartphone designed specifically for use by blind and visually impaired people.

The phone, named RAY (opens in new tab), is intended to incorporate and unite smartphone capabilities with an (often rather expensive) assortment of devices used by the visually impaired in their daily lives, such as audiobook readers, navigation tools, barcode scanners and voice-enabled MP3 players.

RAY is based on an off-the-shelf Android smartphone powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. It will support phone calls, voice-enabled text messaging, object recognition, 24/7 mobile broadband connectivity and a range of entertainment offerings.

"The breakthrough UI defines a new language for human-device interaction that is built ground-up for eye-free operation," said Project RAY CEO, Boaz Zilberman. "The user touches any position on the screen and that position becomes the starting point for selecting an audiobook, messaging or other activity. Navigation is enabled by a few simple finger movements in different directions. The phone's built-in vibration capabilities and voice prompts provide user feedback and the UI learns to adapt its behaviour based on users' preferences and usage patterns."

According to the World Health Organisation, 285 million people the world over are visually impaired. Of those, 39 million are blind. Project RAY (opens in new tab) aims to develop tools to assist them and increase their level of independence.

(opens in new tab)Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm's EVP and general counsel, said, "We believe the Project RAY device will enhance the ability of blind and visually impaired people to access resources and information independently."

The product is synchronised with the content of the audiobooks of Israel's Central Library for the Blind, Visually Impaired and Handicapped, and is currently being tested by 100 people there.

The Project RAY online store is set to open on 20 November (opens in new tab), and more details on the device will likely be available in the weeks leading up to that.

Image Credit: Engadget (opens in new tab)

Aatif is a freelance copywriter and journalist based in the UK. He’s written about technology, science and politics for publications including Gizmodo, The Independent, Trusted Reviews, Newsweek, and ITProPortal.