Showing all posts tagged accessibility:

Microsoft's One-Handed Keyboard



With lack of tactility, the traditional on-screen keyboard on smartphones relies on touch-enabled display. However, the display also serves as a frame of reference for the position of keys. The keys also offer consistent size and linear placement.

Meanwhile, the ergonomic placement of the keys on the one-handed keyboard is certainly usable with a single hand, but it may take the user considerable amount of effort and time to learn the complex positioning of each keys unless haptic feedback is present.

In the keyboard design used on Microsoft Windows Phone, the frame of reference, uniform size and linear positioning is lost. While the keyboard is optimized for the optimal and uniform distance between the user's thumb and keys, the learning curve will be quite high for most users. Just as a tiny fraction of users use specialized keyboards or keyboard layouts for the purpose of maximizing productivity, ergonomics and utility for specific uses, Microsoft's take on on-screen keyboard is not designed for the mass audience.

In the end, there is a place for a keyboard like this. But not for the mass audience. Standardization will always triumph in the end...

Tentacle Arm by Kaylene Kau


A prosthetic arm that is both flexible and adjustable in order to grip a variety of objects.

The Motor winds a cable while releasing the other, causing the arm to curl. Releasing the cable will return the arm to its normal position.

#tweet2voice: Sociolinguistic Experiment on Tweets




The origin of idea

During one night, I had a funny idea. What if Twitter users can include a special hashtag to have their tweets be read out loud by strangers?
Could this provide an interesting mechanism to transform a vast amount of text feed into audible human conversations and perhaps add additional layer of information (such as emotional intelligence) that was not present before?

Based on this premise, I built a working prototype based on following thought process.


Role of speech

Traditionally, speech function helps convey information and express social relationships. The list below summarizes all of its roles:
  1. Expressive - express speaker's feelings
  2. Directive - get others to do things
  3. Referential - provide information
  4. Metalinguistic - comments on language
  5. Poetic - aesthetic language
  6. Phatic - language for solidarity and empathy

Where the inspiration came from

This experiment was partially inspired by a project that I was apart of called Audil, an environmental system for the visually impaired.

One of the pain points we've identified during a course of testing is that blind people have virtually no choice when it comes to how information is disseminated to them. For example, computer speech synthesis software is used frequently throughout the day to absorb information and interact with the world. However, this technology also creates social disparity between the visually impaired and the people who are not. We felt that we can design technology in a way that brings people together rather than to simply subtitute human presence with technology.

Another inspiration came from an app called Umano. The app is essentially an audiobook for blogs—where a voice actor would read a blog post out aloud. It's particularly useful when you're driving because you can catch up on blog posts without the need to stare at RSS reader.

Umano distinguishes itself from a competitor, SoundGecko, which utilizes server-sided dictation software to read articles and documents. Umano instead relies on professional voice actors and announcers to read the articles out loud.

In terms of listening experience, voice algorithms of SoundGecko cannot compete with Umano's crowdsourced system to fine-tune tonality, speed and pitch to make the content seemingly more interesting to our brain.


How it works
  1. Amazon Mechanical Turk worker reads instructions below.
  2. Worker opens Google Spreadsheet with latest tweets with hashtag #tweet2voice.
  3. Worker then calls toll-free number (VoIP) and reads the tweet out loud.
  4. Line2 voicemail notification email with MP3 attachment is sent.
  5. ITTT identifies email with attachment, places MP3 into Dropbox folder and then uploads MP3 to SoundCloud and Tumblr.
  6. Admin tweets SoundCloud link to the original Twitter user.

Instructions for Amazon Mechanical Turk

Summary: You will be calling a toll-free number and reading a statement out loud for the voicemail.

  1. Go to this link.
  2. Find a statement next to "No."
  3. Call the toll-free number at 888-XXX-XXXX.
  4. When the voicemail beeps, begin reading the statement out loud. Please be expressive when speaking. You can simply read, exaggerate a bit or be emotional, angry, happy, funny, weird, etc.
  5. When completed, type replace "No" with "Yes" next to the statement you just spoke.
  6. Insert the current date and time (in Pacific Time Standard) under "Date & Time Submitted."
  7. Finally, check the box below and submit.

I have called the number and left a voicemail according to the instructions.

Testing HumanWare Victor Reader for Visually Impaired



During an interview with a person with visual impairment, I got to play with his nifty device called Victor Reader. Essentially, it’s a glorified MP3 player without a screen that dictates menu and content (audio books, ebooks, DAISY books, text files, notes, music, etc.). This particular model also records voice notes, but the newer model offers streaming radio over wifi and improved dictation.

Notice that all of the buttons are shaped differently based on their functions and some buttons even offer tactile or braille texture on the surface of the buttons.




Behavior of a button can go beyond physicality. For example, LG TV remote utilizes a subtle affordance that helps the user be aware of which button s/he has pressed without staring at the remote. The remote achieves this by having a unique pitch generated by each directional button. I discovered this when I pressed the buttons repeatedly and realized that the "click" sounds were slightly varied. In fact, up, down, left and right buttons all create slightly different pitches generated by the mechanical buttons/membranes. Furthermore, the volume and channel buttons offer slightly different contour that helps the user feel where their fingers are placed.

As you can see, the pitch that individual buttons generate is unique.

Left Button

Down Button

Right Button

Up Button

Enter Button

P.S. Whether this was intentional or due to imperfection created during the manufacturing process, I don't have a conclusive evidence. But it works!

Personal Shoppers for the Blind at Debenhams




Debenhams personal shoppers have undergone special training on the experience of a blind or partially sighted customer, using darkened or opaque glasses which imitate various levels of sight loss. Their personal shoppers have also been carefully trained in how to effectively explain the touch and feel of sequins and embellishment, how to describe heel height and style, the difference in look, touch and function of different fastening methods and how to communicate sensitively to the customer.