Can Braille be faster than QWERTY? App developer thinks so
February 20th, 2012
04:26 PM ET

Can Braille be faster than QWERTY? App developer thinks so

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - If Mario Romero has his way, we'll all be learning Braille soon.

The post-doc researcher at Georgia Institute of Technology has co-developed an app, called BrailleTouch, that could help blind people send text messages and type e-mails on touch-screen smartphones without the need for expensive, extra equipment. To use the app, people hold their phones with the screens facing away from them and punch combinations of six touch-screen buttons to form characters. The app speaks a letter aloud after it's been registered, so there's no need to see the screen.

The system is designed for blind and visually impaired people, who otherwise have to purchase thousand-dollar machines or cumbersome "hover-over" (more on that later) keyboards to be able to type on no-button smartphones. But Romero sees a spin-off for the technology: The touch-screen Braille keyboard is so fast that sighted people may start using it, too.

"It may be a solution for everybody to get their eyes off their phone so they can walk and text or watch TV and make a comment on a blog," he said by phone. "It may free the sighted people's eyes" and help visually impaired people to type more easily.

The free app, which is being developed for Apple iOS and Google Android devices, should be available in a matter of weeks, he said.

You can watch a video of the app in action on YouTube:

So far, the app has only undergone limited tests, and Romero declined to make a pre-release version available to CNN. In an 11-person trial, however, he said, some Braille typists were able to go faster than they could on standard, QWERTY keyboards. One visually impaired person, who was already familiar with Braille (you punch the six keys in various combinations to make letters) typed at a rate of 32 words per minute, Romero said, with 92% accuracy. Romero himself, who never had used a Braille keyboard before, was able to type at about 25 words per minute with 100% accuracy after a week of practice, he said.

The app will undergo more rigorous testing before it's released, said Romero, who is a post-doctoral researcher at the university's School of Interactive Computing. It was developed with the help of  Brian Frey, Gregory Abowd, James Clawson and Kate Rosier.

Smartphones are generally pretty good at reading material on their screens to people who have vision problems, he said, but it's usually difficult to enter text on the devices. To get a sense of what it's like for a blind person to use an iPhone you can go to Settings >> General >> Accessibility, and turn the "VoiceOver" feature on. When you touch a menu item, the iPhone reads the text aloud in a computerized voice. To select something on the screen, you double-tap that item. To scroll, you use three fingers.

All that works well, Romero said, but typing on an iPhone without buttons is a pain. Another alternative, he said, is attaching a hardware Braille keyboard to a smarpthone, but those are difficult to carry and are expensive:

"The options (blind people) have right now are either too expensive and cumbersome or too slow. Virtual keyboards and soft keyboards - like Apple's voice-over keyboard - are too slow. Or they have options to get hardware that costs several thousand dollars."

The new app may not alleviate all of those problems. On Android phones, the BrailleTouch app can be programmed in as the phone's standard keyboard. Because of restrictions on iOS, he said, that can't happen on an iPhone, so people who want to use the BrailleTouch keyboard have to open the app, type into a text document and then copy-paste that into an e-mail or text message.

Romero admits that this app isn't the end-all-be-all in typing. But it's helping create a future, as he said, when "one day we're not slaves to the screens."

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Filed under: Smartphones • Social change • Tech • Thinkers • Uncategorized
soundoff (209 Responses)
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    April 10, 2013 at 12:09 am | Reply
  2. Mario Romero

    Dear all,
    BrailleTouch is now available at the App Store:

    You can follow us on Twitter @brailletouch and at

    February 20, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  3. builders

    Magnificent points altogether, you just gained a new reader. What might you suggest about your post that you made a few days ago? Any certain?

    September 12, 2012 at 3:51 am | Reply
  4. Jmes Martin

    That is why this apps been created to make our life easier and fun. I would love to try this and maybe we could connect some flaws on this. There are qwerty alternative android apps that i could also share with you

    June 6, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Reply
  5. Rubel H

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    March 27, 2012 at 8:34 am | Reply
  10. Jonny

    I type 72 words per minute on my Droid X with 100% accuracy. Why would I need this?

    March 4, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Reply
    • Vicky

      Great for you! But the primary target are persons with visual impairment for whom typing on a touch keyboard is a time-consuming challenge. The analogy was meant to show how much faster than an external keyboard this could be.

      March 4, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Reply
  11. george

    $1700 for what.. I did search braille keyboards are less than $200.. Am I missing something or is their some special device that someone made that takes advantage of blind people by charging $1700 for it. This idea is great but saying its
    saving someone $1700 is a stretch. I can't see any special device used as a keyboard costing that much.
    EXCEPT someone greedy patented the idea and demands out of site royalties for the idea for the keyboard I can understand that.

    February 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Reply
    • Phouka

      I think you're confusing a regular keyboard with braille on it for an actual braille interface. I did find a "Braille Keyboard" that looks like a standard keyboard, but that's not what most blind people use (plus, can you imagine toting that thing around with a cell phone?!!?) Try Googling BrailleNote (, Perkins Brailler (, or just "Brailler" to get an idea of what the technology's like. In my admittedly limited experience, braille devices aren't called "keyboards," so leaving that term out should help you find the right products/technology to get a better idea of the comparison/cost difference.

      February 29, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Reply
    • Vicky

      This is correct. A regular keyboard with braille on it is not that expensive, but it's not the keyboard the article mentions: It's talking about braille keyboards (I.E., little devices with the seven keys for writing braille), and those, believe it or not, are over $1000. Google BraillePen, for instance.

      February 29, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Reply
      • Filhos

        Also, I flat out told someone once, when she got ratty (for about the 20th time) about my pceferenre for email over phone, that she was kind of interrupty and that I liked to finish sentences. That little piece of truth was not appreciated by her. But I know exactly what you mean about wanting to be able to finish a thought or get through something complicated. Not that Only I Get To Speak that's not what I'm saying but that each person gets to get through what they're trying to say. I know interruption is part of a normal conversation, in a big way, and it's not even unhealthy. You should see the stats for how often people interject in conversations, at least in North America. It's what we do. But, lord knows, there are times when it's excessive and there are also times when it's not helpful.

        April 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  12. kristina

    Another interesting project along the same lines but for a tablet device:

    February 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Reply
    • Yumi

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      March 20, 2012 at 12:08 am | Reply
  13. Mario Romero

    February 26, 2012 at 3:30 am | Reply
  14. Mario Romero

    If you would like to see BrailleTouch on the iPhone, please let Apple Accessibility know.

    February 24, 2012 at 12:05 am | Reply
    • Gustavo

      Hey Paul, thanks for cotennmimg! I knew when I posted this you'd probably see it and either agree or get annoyed, or a bit of both, so apologies for that. It's really just a good example and the one that prompted me to write this in the first place (had the draft sitting around for ages!)I see your point about that use case for noreply, but let's remember that it's not up to us to decide when a user will feel like responding, and to what. What if they wanted to reply to your notification message to let you know the template is screwed up, or a variable didn't get expanded?eg. Hello ! which I actually received in an email notification recently, from you guessed it a noreply email address.

      October 24, 2012 at 5:12 am | Reply
  15. engineer long time

    Cool app..

    February 23, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Reply
  16. engineer long time

    If someone is blind, why not just use the telephone function on the phone.

    February 23, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Thanks for your question. Basically, for some of the same reasons as everyone else. There are many instances where a short text is more appropriate, for example, when in a meeting or class, when there is not enough time for a full interpersonal conversation, when the person receiving the message is not available to accept a call, to keep track of the conversation, when, for privacy reasons, the caller does not want the surrounding bystanders to listen in, and, finally, when it is too noisy to listen to a voice call. Furthermore, this is a keyboard (on the Android) that supports all text entry tasks, including taking notes and inputting text into search and other types of fields.

      February 23, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Reply
  17. Mario Romero


    Caleb Southern is wrongfully omitted from the report. He is the leading PhD student at Georgia Tech behind BrailleTouch.

    I can't type at 25 wpm. I said 16 wpm at 100% and that was my peak during one test. Normally, I'm around 10 wpm and accuracy is not 100%.



    February 23, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  18. Mario Romero

    Please go to for a more accurate report with statements from me that are not as inflated by the report.
    Thank you!
    Mario Romero

    February 23, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Reply
  19. Jim

    This is so awesome !!!. Does it support any other languages? (Chinese, French)

    February 23, 2012 at 12:43 am | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Braille exists for all major languages. BrailleTouch currently supports only English, hence our desire to open source it.
      Mario Romero

      February 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Reply
  20. Lacey

    I'm a TVI and I think this is fantastic! Not everyone will use it- the same way not everyone uses JAWS, a Victor, Braille Note, etc. Everyone uses what works for them and this will certainly work for some people. I know that my totally blind kids braille way faster than they type.

    I am curious though (but in fairness, I didn't read all the comments to see if someone else has already asked) .., will the app recognize and convert contracted braille?

    February 22, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      We learned of the enormous importance and extraordinary boost of contracted braille during our user studies with the un-contracted braille prototype. It is the natural next step, but it will take us a while to do it. Please, keep in touch for beta testing both versions by emailing me at mario at gatech dot edu.

      February 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Reply
      • Vicky

        This is really awesome! I am totally blind and a life-long braille user, currently getting my masters in special ed. I can't wait to try the app! If you need any extra beta tester, I'll be very happy to help!
        (And by the way, thanks for your very eloquent and informed reply to the comment about blind persons texting)...

        February 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  21. Justin

    I'd like to contribute my perspective as another blind user of the iPhone, while being a little more tactful than a previous comment from this perspective. First, I'd like to say that the idea behind this app is intriguing, and it could be useful in some situations. I will probably try this app when it is available. I'm curious to see how it goes.
    I have no problem whatsoever with the project itself. I do, however, have a serious problem with the way this particular CNN piece was worded. We do not have to purchase thousand-dollar machines to type on an iPhone. Perhaps you meant that we need such hardware to type in braille, which may be correct, but there are other perfectly good options available at reasonable prices.
    A few people that I know can type on the included keyboard just as fast as a sighted person. This probably takes a good deal of practice, but it can be done. Others are not comfortable doing that, and therefore decide to purchase an inexpensive bluetooth keyboard. I can easily take the same $60 Apple bluetooth keyboard that I am now using with my Mac, pair it with my phone and start texting away. Recently a smaller keyboard that sells for $45 is becoming increasingly popular in our community.
    So while I am indeed glad to see the possibility of a free braille input method on iOS, it is not helpful to exaggerate about how bad the situation really is. More choices are always good, and I know at least a few people who will select this over a bluetooth qwerty keyboard. It's just that the presentation of it was way over the top and gives the reader a very distorted picture. I'm sure that the community over at the forums on would be glad to talk to you and give you a wide range of perspectives on this subject. We are just as varied in skill level as the rest of the population.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Thanks for the feedback. This medium is allowing for a lot of very valuable feedback from informed users as yourself. We will join the conversation at the forum you mentioned. The people we've talked to agree with most of what you say, but as with anything else and maybe even more so in your community's case, people have their own experience and opinion. Thank you!

      February 22, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Reply
      • Vicky

        I see what you say, Justin, but I do believe the article was just trying to make a point, rather than purposely exagerating things. The regular phone keyboard is not an option any more since most phones are touchscreen-only. It's not such exageration though: Just a little external braille keyboard is over $1000. I, for one, as a totally blind user, love the idea of going about with just my phone without the need to carry additional gismos! hee

        February 26, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  22. Chip

    Faster than QWERTY... duh, pretty much anything is faster than QWERTY. It was designed to slow typists down so their mechanical typewriters would jam less frequently.

    February 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Reply
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    February 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Ok, so impersonation is trivial here, just as vandalism is simple and easy.
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      February 22, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Reply
  28. FitforLife

    We already have speech to text – why bother with this?

    February 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Reply
    • jp

      If you're at a concert or loud setting, speak to text isn't that great. And also, if I were visually impaired, I wouldn't want to talk all the time to send a text. "Text Marie... this guy next to me is so annoying, send." Yea not always the best option there...

      February 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Reply
      • Jeremy

        bad example, it speaks every letter you type. Neither of your examples makes an argument against text to speech.

        February 22, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
      • Vicky

        Uh, not a bad example. Generally you can opt to have the typing letters echo on or off. If you're an experienced braille user, you can turn it off because you don't need to hear the letter. I can't wait to try it!

        February 26, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  29. Cheryl

    this is awesome. my visually impaired daughter is so excited about this. we would love to try this out.

    February 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Reply
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  30. Shannon

    This sounds like a fantastic app and I can't wait to use it! I can see fine, but I hate the keyboard on my smartphone (the letters are just too small), and I don't like how much I miss out on in life with my eyes constantly on my screen. I think this will be a truly liberating app for both the sighted and sight impaired. It's really amazing to me that technology originally developed for people with different disabilities can turn out to help people without those disabilities too. I think we should look into this more – people with disabilities are used to having to adapt to a world that wasn't designed for them, so it makes sense that technologies created for them would be revolutionary for the rest of us as well.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Reply
  31. Maureen Lewicki

    I'd love to beta test this with a couple of my braille students. Please contact me if that is a possibility!

    February 22, 2012 at 11:00 am | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Hi Maureen, it is certainly possible. Please, send me an email and we'll add you to the list of original beta testers. Thanks,
      mario at gatech dot edu

      February 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Reply
  32. Rex A.

    Mario, thank you for not only the time and reasearch you have put into this app, but also for your time here on the Forums to address the comments and concerns of others. This shows not just your dedication to improving your research, but in hearing the people it could serve.. which is to be commended in iteself.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:26 am | Reply
    • bob form pittsburgh

      Let me remind you QUERTY was invented to slow typist down due to problems with mechanical typewriters, the typist were much faster than the machines could handle.. no news here..

      February 22, 2012 at 9:57 am | Reply
      • o

        Actually, it wasn't designed to slow down typists, it was designed to prevent jams in the mechanism by separating commonly used pairs of characters, in effect increasing the speed at which people could type.

        February 22, 2012 at 10:46 am |
      • andrew

        did you really just type "QWERTY" wrong? youve gotta look down at your keyboard to type it......

        February 22, 2012 at 11:53 am |
      • Mario Romero

        There are some interesting conversations about QWERTY throughout this post. If you are interested, read on, please.
        BrailleTouch's original and primary purpose is not to be faster or better than QWERTY for the sighted. It is to provide another alternative to engage people with varying abilities into the global conversation that is happening through text input. BrailleTouch has the effect of firing up the imagination and many people now, including me, think that it may have a shot at freeing some sighted people from looking at their keyboards as they type. At this moment, it's only hopeful speculation, but that may be the basis for an interesting set of user studies. Thanks for your post.

        February 22, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
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        February 22, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Mario Romero

      Thank you Rex. It's the first time I do something like this and I'm trying to be as professional as possible.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  33. braillescriber

    Hi Mr. Romero, I am a certified braille transcriber. I think this is a fabulous idea! And I agree with the mini-QWERTYs being a pain, as I am sighted but have trouble using them because my fingers hit the wrong key or more than one key at a time. Also, even the touchscreen keyboard is not infallible for me 🙂 I know I could text more accurately with this!

    WIll contracted braille translation become available? What about numbers? Is this just for texting or will it be usable for inputting user names and passwords into mobile web pages or for searching the web?

    February 22, 2012 at 9:15 am | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Thank you for your positive feedback. In December was the first time that I met two professional braille transcribers and it hit me, once again, that people, everyone, can be so resourceful when they have a drive. I'm constantly at awe at the seemingly infinite technique people with varying abilities cope with the world. We discovered the enormous significance of contracted braille during our user studies and it is currently one of our top priorities. Regarding its uses, we see it being used for any text entry task and it is working now on the Android. The challenge for universal access is not technical. It's one of policies. Apple's voiceover is a favorite of the visually impaired community, but the split-tap keyboard is not. Unfortunately, as far as I know, people cannot change the keyboard on the iOS. There are some good reasons for keeping a system closed, but there are also some negative consequences. I would love for Apple to put BrailleTouch, free of charge, into the iOS for accessibility. The ball is on Apple's court now. Thank you!

      February 22, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Reply
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        March 19, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  34. SG

    Although its some what interesting, but why would you want to type and and see what you're typing. There's a much better system callesd SNAPKEYS. Just go to and you'll see what I mean.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:40 am | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Snapkeys is a fascinating system. I hadn't seeing it before. Thank you for sharing. It's not eyes-free, though. For people with varying abilities, what matters most is the right fit within the right context. There certainly is a market for Snapkeys; it's a fantastic system. Thank you for your post.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Reply
      • sg

        as a matter of fact it can be used without looking.

        February 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Edith

      Thanks so much for drawing ntteation to my post and my 10 point argument against CAPTCHA use. The most frustrating struggles I have faced as a visually challenged person in the blogosphere have been with CAPTCHAs. Commenting on some blogs that have CAPTCHA without the audio option radio button has become so discouraging that I have stopped even trying. Adding insult to injury I made the discovery that some are reaping an income from CAPTCHA use. As I don't wish to promote the company involved I won't be referring to it by name. Best wishes with your blogging and thanks again.

      March 19, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Reply
  35. Dani

    You don't need an app for this. I learned how to read braille in a day. It's really not that hard if people can put away the angry birds and pay enough attention. *rolls eyes* Welp, that's 2 minutes I'm not getting back.

    February 22, 2012 at 1:36 am | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      People with varying ability levels require different support structures. You're clearly a very quick learner, but other people need more support. Thank you for your post! I'm glad to see some people can learn braille quickly. It's very promising.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:54 am | Reply
    • Debbie

      If you learned the braille alphabet in one day, that is great. You are a fast learner. Your post is misleading, however. When a person learns Braille, they are talking about learning the entire code, including all the contractions. Since you learned uncontracted Braille so quickly, you should consider continuing your Braille studies. I'm sure you'd do well!

      February 24, 2012 at 8:41 am | Reply
      • Vicky

        True Debbie! But I'm afraid our friend here was missing the purpose of the app...which as far as I know, is not to learn braille. 😀

        February 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
      • Edgar

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        March 19, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  36. Stephen Guerra

    I am glad and welcome a dialogue with Mr. Romero about this app as I am an iOS device user and would love to test, this might help in athe long run, and Android and iOS devices are now and present and usable by all

    February 21, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Please send me an email. mario at gatech dot edu
      Thank you,

      February 22, 2012 at 1:52 am | Reply
  37. Troller

    Hey guys, did ya hear about how QWERTY was designed to slow down typists on typerwriters, so that they wouldn't jam?

    February 21, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Reply
  38. Ed

    Wouldn't Morse code work even better? Treat the entire screen as one big button so that you don't have to worry about hitting the wrong spot.

    February 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Reply
    • AgentJ

      Stenotyping is a lot faster than QWERTY too, but that hasn't caught on any more in the last 50 years than this will.

      February 21, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Reply
      • AgentJ

        Not to mention the speed of just talking to Siri...

        February 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Mario Romero

      This is a great point. I think the difference is that there is an active community of braille typists and typing braille seems easier to learn than morse. Furthermore, I doubt morse is faster than braille. The encoding of braillle is about as efficient as you can get. The 12-year-old Louis Braille invented something truly elegant in 1821. Thanks for your post.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:50 am | Reply
      • Vicky

        But why would I want to talk to a device when I can text like everyone else? Who wants everyone around them reading over their messages? I don't. In a meeting or conference, in a concert, or in general, I at least don't find it very "esthetic" (so to speak) to be talking to anything/one but other people... 😀 Looking forward to this!

        February 26, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  39. chip

    30 wpm is the speed of typing on a qwerty using "hunt and peck." Extremely fast typists can get over 100 wpm. I doubt very highly that hitting combinations of keys to achieve a single letter is faster than just HITTING A SINGLE LETTER.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
    • shirley

      You are not pressing more than once to create a single letter. You are pressing with more than one finger at a time to create a letter.

      February 21, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Thanks for your post. You're right, but the speeds you mention are for full-sized qwerty keyboards with immediate visual feedback on a large screen. On a soft mini-qwerty on a pocket-sized screen, things are not as bright.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:47 am | Reply
    • Jeremy

      I can see how this could be faster. its like playing guitar chords. I bet people get extremely fast at it.

      February 22, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  40. more2bits

    An ASL signing applications would be tens of times faster than any braille or qwerty keyboard. Work on that scientists!

    February 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      You're onto something, yes! Check out the great work of Thad Starner at Georgia Tech and Stan Sclaroff at Boston University. It is not an easy task, though. Similar to speech recognition.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Reply
  41. The Straight Skinny

    QWERTY was designed to be slow, not fast. As typists' speed caused the mechanisms of early typewriters to jam with their original keyboard layout, QWERTY came into being to slow typists down. They managed to work around the obstacle, but by that time typewriters had evolved to the point where they could handle speedy fingers.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Reply
  42. MAL

    I think this is great. I have a son that is younger & really wanting to get into technology, things like this will really help him feel included in todays society. Im always looking for things like this to come out for either Android or Apple as I have an iPad, he has an iPod touch & I have a Droid 2 as well – do you know of a certain site that lists things like this that we can download or that other blind users reviewed & felt were very successful for them? There's alot of info out there Im sure but it can be very difficult to find.

    I think this upcoming app is amazing & anything to get the blind users involved more in technology is truly a great thing.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      MAL, please send me an email and we will keep you posted to receive early beta versions for testing.
      mario at gatech dot edu

      February 22, 2012 at 1:44 am | Reply
    • Liz Bottner

      I think that this concept is very neat. I am looking forward to testing the app myself when it comes out. To the poster who said that they learned braille in a day: I remain highly skeptical... I myself am blind since birth and have read braille now for 20+ years. I do not think it possible to learn in a day.
      To the other poster asking for a website that lists app recommendations and other related info, one does exist:
      Take care, and I do hope that this is helpful.

      February 22, 2012 at 11:30 am | Reply
  43. TruAmerikan

    FINALLY!!! Now at last the visiually impared will be ablt to text-and-drive just like anybody else.

    February 21, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  44. lintlicker

    People need to use swype , I can text with 1 hand and fast than mot of my friends. And most people never heard of Swype .

    February 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      I am a swipe user myself and I'm very fast and accurate at it, but one still needs to look at the screen. Thanks!

      February 22, 2012 at 1:00 am | Reply
  45. SaltLakeFinest

    I'm worried that this will encourage blind people to text while driving.

    February 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Reply
    • Barry

      "I'm worried that this will encourage blind people to text while driving."

      LOL. Good one.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      LOL, yes, blind in a metaphorical sense, I guess. Thanks!

      February 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Reply
  46. Hank Marvin the plumber

    Just what we need: a bunch of blind people driving down the freeway texting.

    February 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Reply
  47. smartaz

    .:..: :.:..: :::.::.::. ::..::. ::.. ..:: ::.. .:.

    February 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Reply
    • Take that!


      February 21, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Reply
      • Shqiprim

        Posted on Your are not worthless. You mean the world to snomoee. You just need to find out who. And don't ever try to take your life ever you are loved by more people than you think.

        April 29, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  48. Casey

    This appears to be a copy of the GKOS which has been around for years !
    Google GKOS if you don't know what I am talking about.

    February 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      This is fascinating, thank you! We were not aware of GKOS. We will certain like to include it in our user studies. One of our motivations was to build an app that would run on standard commodity hardware. The popularity of the smartphones iPhone and Androids make it ideal for a simple release of a free app, without the need of special hardware. Of course, the special hardware of GKOS has the added benefit that users can type on the back of the device, feel the buttons as they type, and, if sighted, see what's on the screen. It's fantastic! In a world with varying abilities and contexts, diversity and option are our best allies in leveling the playing field for everyone, regardless of their ability level.
      Thank you,

      February 22, 2012 at 1:06 am | Reply
      • Vlad

        GKOS app already exists in the App Store.

        February 22, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  49. Humama

    I'm not sure that I think this would be a practical app for sighted people. As a teacher of students with visual impairments, I have learned Braille, and it is much, much more complex than print. There are short form words, contractions, and conventions that do not exist in print. It also sounds like the user will enter the characters backwards, similar to using a slate and stylus. This compounds the number of reversals a sighted individual would make, especially since Braille has many more reversals than print (and these are not the same as those for print!).
    Nonetheless, this sounds like an interesting development. I am glad that research continues to be conducted to find ways to increase participation by persons with visual impairment in our society.

    February 21, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Thank you for your post. You are right. I'm not sure it will work for sighted people either. That makes it an interesting research question. It's like a bet at the races! Anyway, I'd like to comment on your points. Grade 2 braille, the one with contractions that you describe, requires time to learn. I don't know if people would take that time. We have only implemented and tested grade one, with no contractions. The characters have a one-to-one mapping to the chords on the device. The second observation is that the chording happens exactly as people see the braille cell. It is a technique called "through the device" interaction. Visualize that the phone is transparent and you are interacting with the far side of it. It is NOT reversed like the slate and stylus. Thus, it is learned directly, without reversals.
      Thank you!

      February 22, 2012 at 1:11 am | Reply
      • Rushikesh

        Wow. I can't believe how ltemiid your library hours are. There are two in my district. One is open what I thought were ltemiid hours (only open until 8 on one night during the week and Saturdays) whereas the other one is open to 8 every weekday and both Saturday and Sunday.

        January 12, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • Vicky

      I respectfully disagree. Braille alphabet equal print, just an "alternative format" of it to be accessed through a different sense. Contracted braille has its rules and can be complex to learn, but a braille user wouldn't have a problem typing in contracted braille, or he/she could just type in uncontracted, letter by letter.
      BTW, the whole contracted vs uncontracted is pretty much an English-speakers' issue (contracted to save printing space), since the rest of the world, (though some languages have their contraction systems which are not really a priority), mostly uses primarily grade 1. Just a bit of info to give a little further perspective on the outreach and of the app project.
      If anyone wants to communicate with a braille reader through braille, learning the alphabet and punctuation is enough and only as complex as learning the shape of the print letters is to a blind person. (My sighted roomie has no problem leaving me notes or grocery lists when she needs a hand, and many other friends have learned as well).
      LOL sorry, rant over! It's just that misperceptions in general often create resistance to experiencing new things...

      February 26, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Reply
    • DeaLyn

      I feel So sorry for Stephanie J Block she is brillant as Elphaba but she is out inehsd by Idina Menzel because Idina was in two production of Wicked (orginal and broadway) and stephanie was in the on after Idina in the U.S. I was kind of hoping she was going to be in the Australian verison but Jemma Rix was awesome so its all good

      March 20, 2012 at 12:44 am | Reply
  50. GonzoG

    I don't know, I was pretty good with T9 on my cell phone (nokia candybar). Wife was impressed with the length and spelling of my 'missives'. Her spelling was never even "CLORF 2 CORECT".

    February 21, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Yes, T9s and 3×4 keypads are still one way people interact with their phones. Unfortunately, they lack the flexibility, richness, community, interactivity, applications, and "cool factor" available on touchscreen smartphones. It's not just about the keyboard. It's about the "ecology" where the keyboard interacts with the rest of the applications on the device.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:16 am | Reply
  51. AlCourts

    February 21, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Reply
  52. Irene

    WOW!!! My daughter is blind (had been all her life) and she loves her phone – but texting has been a challenge for her. This is AMAZING – please, what do we have to do to get this app for her? She's very 'techy' as we are a 'techy' family – So the next big thing: Nook or Kindle for the blind? Where they could actually read the braille on the screen and not have to listen to a book (two very distinct skills).

    Thank you!!

    February 21, 2012 at 11:52 am | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Irene, please send me an email and we will keep you posted to receive early beta versions for testing.
      mario at gatech dot edu

      February 22, 2012 at 1:41 am | Reply
  53. somebody

    This is great technology, but its speed is not surprising. QWERTY was created way back when to actually slow down typing (think old typewriters). QWERTY really should have been put down a long time ago.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:36 am | Reply
    • dom625

      QWERTY is only slow if you are not practiced at working with it. For those of us who took the time to learn the layout of the keyboard, it's quick and just as efficient as anything else.

      Besides, if we "put down" everything that is old and clunky, the elderly would be in a world of trouble!

      February 21, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Reply
      • Trinity

        QWERTY isn't slower because of the strange layout; it's slower because letters that commonly follow one another were deliberately placed far apart from each other on the keyboard so a typewriter's typebars wouldn't jam together when these letters were struck in quick succession. As a result, with the QWERTY layout, a typist has to move his or her fingers around the keyboard far more than would be necessary under a different layout.

        February 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • PeteH

      QWERTY was developed to keep early typewriter print hammers from jamming. It placed keys most likely to be struck squentially as far apart as possible mechanically, thus eliminating the jamming problem.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Reply
  54. Eric

    No surprise beating QWERTY. It was designed to be slow so the keys on the typewriter wouldn't jam. DVORAK is faster, and when the mouse was originally developed, it was designed to be used in conjunction with a single hand operated chording keyboard. We could be so much more efficient, but you must overcome cultural and technical momentum.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:34 am | Reply
  55. deaf

    When are they going to make an app for the hearing impaired? I can speak fine, but an app that changes incoming voice to text for things such as voice calls or video would be a godsend.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:34 am | Reply
    • David (another deaf person

      Try Google Voice, it transcribes all voice mails, its not perfect but it does the job. However, transcribing "live" voice conversations would be pricey. If you know ASL, get Purple VRS on your phone to take calls with an interpreter.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Reply
    • M

      Speech to text is a good idea, but it's extremely hard to do. It's getting better, but the accuracy isn't nearly good enough in many cases, especially when you have other sounds also present. And it isn't even an issue of cost. The technology just isn't there yet, no matter how much you could spend. Give it a few years, and it may be, but not yet.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      There are people way smarter than me working really hard on that one. What we can do is volunteer to be part of studies when they need our help as a target user population. Try to remain engaged with local research centers and sign up for volunteer participant lists.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:39 am | Reply
  56. grape_vine

    This is GREAT. The blind have been largely shut out of every cellphone innovation out there. Thank heaven someone has gotten on the ball with that.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:25 am | Reply
    • think too much

      The blind are kinda shut out of everything. They are blind, and the minority so things are done in their favor because it isnt smart or worth he effort or money to do it. Its not like blind people contribute to society.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Reply
      • Phouka

        Wow–ignorant much? There are blind medical doctors (one was even recently profiled on CNN's Web site), blind attorneys, blind teachers, blind astrophysicists, blind counsellors, blind engineers, blind computer programmers (remember the MSN ad from a few years back?)–just about any field you can imagine has blind individuals successfully working in it and CONTRIBUTING TO SOCIETY.

        February 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
      • maryanne

        IGGNORANT... PERFECT WORD FOR THIS MORONS COMMENTS ABOVE. They dont "contribute to society"?? Well, great to see you're able to see what you type when you type this garbage on your screen!! Complete loser & poor excuse for a human being is what you are. Dont just think of ADULTS out there that are blind – think of the babies too & the young kids that struggle with trying to mingle & fit in to all the technology there is today – -you are a complete moron. There are many, many successful blind people.

        February 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
      • Elisabeth

        ....I just HAVE to add, that many people with disabilities were NOT born with them. Many people aquire a disability through illness, injury, or have inherited a disorder of one type or another. You have just as much chance of developing a disability as anyone else here. -Not that I wish it, I do not. But a little kindness towards your fellow human being makes the world a bit nicer place to live.

        February 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
      • Mario Romero

        Dear think too much, I hope you're just being provocative. 🙂

        February 22, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • vmyxevkcslx

      if2NTt gefokiiyoabl

      January 13, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Reply
  57. rhobere

    this is definitely a pretty cool idea. it reminds me of the keyboards used by stenographers. My issue is that I don't like having to occupy both of my hands. I've never had a problem texting without looking.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:12 am | Reply
  58. Dave

    They make this sound like it is inovative technology.... and it isn't .. heck it is ancient history. There was a 6 button "ball" keyboard for one handed use that worked in the EXACT same manner as this.... and that was in 1972! The only difference here is that it is wireless and on an iPhone.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:00 am | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      That's the beauty of it in our minds. It's simple and ancient. That's why I think it is the first real contender against the mighty QWERTY. Excerpt from one of our papers:
      In 1821, twelve-year-old Louis Braille witnessed Barbier’s tactile writing system demonstration. Deeply inspired, he optimized the raised-dot system to a cell that fits under a single fingertip and encodes 63 (26–1) characters on a 3×2 binary matrix, with dots numbered one through six in column-major order. To eliminate tactile ambiguity, “a” is the only single-dot character, there are no characters with dots only on the right column, and there are no two-dot characters without at least one dot on the first row. Later braille codes have expanded this original definition.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:25 am | Reply
      • Mario Romero

        That's 2^6 = 64. (Two elevated to the power of six). The all raised is not a character, it's a space. So, it encodes 63 possible combinations. I should have checked after my copy – paste. Sorry.

        February 22, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  59. Robert

    WOW! They could put those same controls on a car steering wheel, allowing a person to text while they drive!

    February 21, 2012 at 10:41 am | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Yes. 🙂 We thought of that and looked at each other and started laughing in conspiracy. It sounds like a great idea, except you still need to pay attention to the road and not just with your eyes.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:21 am | Reply
    • rhobere

      people don't understand that the issue with driving isn't the hands, but how it occupies your mind. when a person is typing or talking on the phone, their mind wanders, not like when they listen to the radio because that requires no interaction. when you're doing something outside of your line of site, you visualize it no matter how hard you try not to, which takes focus away from what you're actually seeing. This is why studies have proven that even talking on a hands free device increases your risk of wrecking just as much as talking on the phone normally.

      basically, that's a terrible idea.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:35 am | Reply
      • Barb

        Excellent summation

        February 21, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  60. more2bits

    So where is the iPhone app that will allow deaf to sign huh?

    Let's be fair here!

    February 21, 2012 at 10:21 am | Reply
    • mez275

      It's called face time. Deaf people use it all the time to communicate, and it saves them from having to buy expensive equipment.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:31 am | Reply
  61. realnews

    read real news here, and weep.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:20 am | Reply
    • Nanou

      Pardon me but I did not participate on January's theme kasi I want to focus na lang sa aking true love heehhe.. Ayaw ko ng balikan ang noon lol..

      October 22, 2012 at 7:07 am | Reply
  62. eko

    This is a good idea. The fact that when you write braille by hand you do it backwards will make the screen facing away very simple to deal with. I think that refreshable Braille displays are the expensive item that keeps coming up, it cost my family $4-6000 every few years to keep up with latest and greatest and Apple made Voice over incompatible with non usb braille devices so I could not use my $9000 80 cell Powerbraille when we first tried Voice Over. Speech synthesizers are ridiculously slow to an experienced Braille user and speech gives the illusion of literacy to the Braille illiterate. This is sort of a version of the BAT keyboard. Apple should port this app into it’s os considering how long they ignored Braille interfaces.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:08 am | Reply
  63. Art Trevethan

    I just have to comment on the discourse. It is heartening to see the subject of the article making corrections and participating in the discussion. this is a real researcher and I applaud your efforts. Exchange of ideas in a civil manner is the basis for advancement, this conversation is providing an example we should see on many articles.

    Accessibility has been a long time coming and I hope to see more and more strides in the years to come. I am fortunate to not have such challenges, but support and promote efforts to make information and communication easier for all..

    February 21, 2012 at 10:03 am | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Thank you! The motivation to engage intelligent and honest people on the world stage on equal footing is one of my main driving motivators. I'm going to quote Professor Stephen Hawking:

      “We have a moral duty to remove the barriers to participation, and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities.”
      Professor Stephen W. Hawking, Foreword to the first World Report on Disability, 2011
      World Health Organization and The World Bank

      February 21, 2012 at 11:19 am | Reply
  64. Greg

    You shouldn't add two more dots as suggested. Subtraction of two may be better. You have enough combinations to make 26 and four other functions with base 4. Computer programs cosmetically change two spaces to end a sentence to a period and do the capitalization of the first letter. Yes, things can be taken out of context without proper punctuation but do i need to put a comma before the former but or quotes around this one or capitalize the i when i can still communicate effectively and apps can enhance. The index finger and thumb have the highest dexterity and middle finger is next in usefulness. Ergonomic sense should dictate. The 6 button system may be better but I doubt the 8 would help. You can spell numbers in this type of communication and a switch could add a mathematical mode.

    February 21, 2012 at 9:56 am | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      This are all interesting ideas. Thank you! Four binary buttons (on or off) will give you 15 possible combinations (2^4 – 1). The base is two, not four. That's the exponent. So, it's not enough. But there are other options that may prove very interesting. For example, there are people working on one-thumb keyboards for single-handed text input. People with varying abilities need varying applications for different contexts. Thanks!

      February 21, 2012 at 11:13 am | Reply
      • Greg

        Screwed the math but even doing 5 buttons where your main hand does an extra button may be better for dexterity reasons. Settling for 31 combinations combinations would enable one handed typing. Bluetooth rings may also work. Type with 5 rings on one hand.

        February 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
      • Mario Romero

        Five-finger chording was introduced by the extraordinarily visionary Engelbart in what has come to be known as the mother of all demos from 1968:
        No individual component of BrailleTouch is completely new. The details that make the combination work is new and the user studies that demonstrate the claim that if you can type braille you can transfer your skill to BrailleTouch is new. The rest is speculation, which is a good motivation to run more experiments.

        February 22, 2012 at 1:25 am |
  65. Qwerty nostalgia

    Grandpa used to get drunk and ramble on about the "good ol' days when they used qwerty and all was well with the world.

    February 21, 2012 at 9:54 am | Reply
  66. Joe

    DVORAK is faster than QWERTY, speech-to-text is faster than QWERTY.... see the pattern?

    February 21, 2012 at 9:27 am | Reply
    • Will S

      I type 60 words a minute with QWERTY. That's fast enough.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Reply
      • Mario Romero

        Different ability levels require different support structures. You're among the fastest typists among all, but other people need more support.

        February 22, 2012 at 1:29 am |
    • Daisy

      It's quite inexplicable isn't it. If they have any sense I have the feeilng that they will have reset it by the weekend. At least set this as the default and give users the option of re-enabling the old style replies via their settings. Maybe a bit of Bernie Ecclestone style smoke and mirrors stuff is going on do something that causes a rumpus and creates lots of press and then suddenly change your mind and start saying the exact opposite a week later

      September 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  67. Tina

    I would love to test this app out. I am a blind iPhone user and while I find Apple to make very accessible products, I would want to see how much quicker and more efficiently I could type with this.
    Also, sense sighted users have to view the screen to read, would the option be allowed for them to turn on the screen curtain when typing in this app to give them as much privacy as us blind users? It wouldn't be fair for someone to type in this App with it facing away from them and for others to see what they are doing.

    February 21, 2012 at 9:25 am | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Hi Tina,

      Please, send me an email. Our team will certainly love to talk to you too. We are thinking about the best options for the visually impaired first. The sighted will have to wait for more design and experimentation from us. But don't worry, there are many people with very interesting ideas all over the world right now. So, that race is on. We mar or may not be part of it.

      Thank you!


      mario at gatech dot edu

      February 21, 2012 at 11:09 am | Reply
  68. Deborah

    We would love to test this app. We have over 300 employees, quite a few of who are blind or visually impaired who consider themselves very techy! Would love to talk to you Mario!

    February 21, 2012 at 8:21 am | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Deborah, please, send me an email and we will certainly love to talk to you too. Thank you!

      mario at gatech dot edu

      February 21, 2012 at 11:05 am | Reply
  69. Alex B

    It should be noted that QWERTY was never intended to be a fast typing keyboard. It was invented when typewriters were common and actually intended to slow the speed that people typed. Because when you typed too fast you would break the typewriter.

    We should change to a more efficient keyboard and we could decrease spelling mistakes and increase productivity drastically.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:18 am | Reply
    • David

      No one said it was designed to be quick, just that this application could possibly be quicker. In todays society, efficience is all that matters.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:49 am | Reply
    • Eli

      I'm often wrong, but the QWERTY keyboard was created so that keys on a typewriter would not get stuck together when they came down to strike the paper – it had little or nothing to do with speed. In fact, a quick Google just confirmed this: "While it is often said that QWERTY was designed to "slow down" typists, this is incorrect – it was designed to prevent jams."

      February 21, 2012 at 9:53 am | Reply
  70. COOL

    I hope this technology becomes a BIG SUCCESS!!!

    February 21, 2012 at 6:21 am | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Thanks! We hope it helps some people, at least.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:28 am | Reply

    No, braille cannot be faster than qwerty, because there are more buttons to press. It's a no-brainer.
    But why would a blind person want to use a touch phone instead of a phone with physical keyboard (e.g. a Blackberry) to begin with? The iPhone is simply not for blind people.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:12 am | Reply
    • Say what?

      umm, I'll believe the report over you,....

      This is pretty cool and hope it goes farther.

      February 21, 2012 at 6:53 am | Reply
    • lol

      You obviously don't understand the subject matter. Qwerty was designed specifically to slow typists down so that they didn't damage the machines they were working on.

      February 21, 2012 at 7:41 am | Reply
    • josh

      nah, you're wrong.

      Real mean type dvorak.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:05 am | Reply
    • RIchard

      You obviously do not understand the structure of braille. With the simplified typing system and contractions a skilled braille typer can type circles around anyone with a qwerty keyboard. I used to sevice Perkins Braillers and have seen first hand.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:26 am | Reply
    • dsaf

      "because there are more buttons to press"

      Which you press at the same time...

      February 21, 2012 at 10:17 am | Reply
  72. BlindTechie

    I am a blind owner of both an Android phone and iPad, and the Droid 2 I own has a hardware keyboard built in.
    This is crap about having to spend thousands of dollars on an external keyboard, as well as the blue tooth keyboards being large and clumsy.
    Between the qwerty keyboard built in, and the excellent voice recognition built into the Droid, the visually impaired can get around well designed apps just fine.
    The problem isn't the input, its the small amount of apps designed to work properly with text to speech engines, even though this would usually require very little extra effort on the app makers part.
    Maybe next time, CNN can actually interview a blind smart phone user when they do an article about blind smart phone apps, there are thousands and thousands of us out here, just ask.

    February 21, 2012 at 12:18 am | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Thanks for your post. I would like to know more about your experience. It's very different from that of all the users we've spoken to, sighted or not, and it may provide valuable information going forward. We honestly want to help. I have many questions, but, mainly, how do you know your fingers are on top of the right key on your physical mini-qwerty keyboard before making a press? My fingers are way too big for touch typing on my phone's physical mini-qwerty.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:47 am | Reply
  73. Mario Romero


    John, you forgot to mention Caleb Southern on this note. Please, include him on the list. He is the leading PhD student at Georgia Tech behind BrailleTouch.

    Also, I can't type at 25 wpm. I said 16 wpm at 100% and that was my peak during one test. Normally, I'm more around 10 wpm and accuracy is not 100%.



    February 21, 2012 at 12:18 am | Reply
  74. D Wright 8pen is a one finger app ... perhaps may be better than the 6 dot app

    February 20, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Reply
    • Qwerty nostalgia

      I want one.

      I want one for desktop.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:17 am | Reply
  75. tokencode

    Modify braille to include 2 more dots... this gives you 8 total matching 1 byte of data. Braille and binary could then be one and the same and provide access to 255 characters creating an inuitive human/computer interface.

    February 20, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      It's a good idea:
      Braille today exists in many different "dialects."

      February 21, 2012 at 12:19 am | Reply
    • eko

      That is computer Braille you are tailing about, it exists already

      February 21, 2012 at 10:11 am | Reply
  76. AlphaTapp

    AlphaTapp can be used with one hand and is easy to learn. As an accompaniment to Braille it could be very useful.

    February 20, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Reply
  77. Kurt Netznik II

    What happened to talk to text? Stupid app.

    February 20, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Reply
    • BK

      Yes, it's clearly stupid to give blind people more options aside from talk-to-text which are infamous for mistakes and often confused by accents.

      What kind of a monster are you, seriously.

      February 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Reply
    • joesense

      kurt... epic fail

      February 21, 2012 at 12:08 am | Reply
      • James Hawk III

        What ever happened to just plain talking? It's a PHONE. Texting is a low-bandwidth form of communications. Talking is faster, doesn't suffer from typos, and conveys meaning in a way texting just can't. If the complaint is that the environment is too noisy, here's a crazy tip: GO SOMEWHERE IT ISN'T NOISY.

        February 21, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • Mario Romero

      There are instances where voice recognition will not work (noisy environments, heavy accents, languages for which one has not been developed) or will not be appropriate for privacy or social constraints (a class or a meeting). It doesn't have to be one or the other. There's a context for each.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:24 am | Reply
  78. Rod C. Venger

    We're already living in a world where brains are becoming less useful, bodily functions (such as work) farmed out to the lowest foreign bidder and now some yutz wants to make our eyes useless too...why? Just because a very small minority of people don't have sight. Maybe he should concentrate on making braille keyboards affordable and standards-compliant. One day, humanity will be formless blobs with no useful limbs or senses.

    February 20, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Reply
    • Tropicaldelight


      February 21, 2012 at 11:31 am | Reply


      February 21, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Reply
      • Jun

        My infintely-better-half uses Braille and LOVES it, for svearel reasons.- Listening is not the same as reading.- It is easier to take notes with a braille slate/stylus and paper, than a text to speech program or laptop.- You don't have to reboot a slate & stylus- Helps with literacy and spelling those students were right. I certainly hope that text isn't a dying art. Maybe we should reconsider keeping this from the serfs

        May 2, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  79. Lyle Ronalds

    Hi John,

    Glad someone is watching for unique applications.
    Please check out my contribution.


    February 20, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Reply
  80. Al

    Hey CNN, just rename the "Tech" section to "Apple and Others". Seriously, 6 of the 8 articles are about Apple in one way or another. Not one of them are anything related to advancements made in Science or Technology. A university just developed a one-atom wide transistor... and you focus on lame apps in the Apple store? Don't worry though... Apple will be able to take credit for that innovation in 10-15 years, after it's been on the market for a while, just like everything else.

    February 20, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      The IOS version will not replace the OS keyboard, unfortunately; blind users are very fond of VoiceOver for good reasons. We have developed Android versions as well that are fully functional. I don't agree that enabling inexpensive communication for all is "a lame app."

      February 21, 2012 at 12:30 am | Reply
  81. Timothy Patti

    Nothing new here, search Apple's app store for braillecalc released in August 2011. Yea, it's mine. Had about 3 downloads.

    February 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      Nice app! You're right. BrailleTouch is not new. The prototype was created in 2010 and published in July 2011 and the second design in August 2011. The new contribution is the user study and the ability to make some claims.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:40 am | Reply
  82. Martin

    Why would blind people use a Braille app for this when many SMS devices accept voice input?

    February 20, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Reply
    • Cedarsands

      The lack of standards in interface design makes each device it's own challenge for visually impaired users. Just because a device accepts voice command does not make it easy to use without sight. Navigating through mistakes, navigating to the voice option, are all patterns unique for the device, often without regard to someone depending on that technology. Just think about the differences in remote controls for the (likely) more than one TV in your home. It will be interesting to see if this particular app really has visually impaired people in mind when it comes out.

      February 20, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Reply
      • Julia

        Do we need an epiphany when it comes to ocommn sense? I mean, do we have to figure it out all by ourself? Or are we smart enough to look for it? Should it be called rare sense since it's not always so ocommn?

        March 19, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Mario Romero

      There are instances where voice recognition will not work (noise environments, heavy accents) or will not be appropriate for privacy or social constraints (a class or a meeting).

      February 21, 2012 at 12:05 am | Reply
  83. TheXDude

    Can Braille be faster than QWERTY? That question in and of itself is silly – given that the QWERTY design was created to intentionally slow down typists so that the hammers on the old type writers wouldn't get stuck, just about ANYTHING will be faster. A real test would be to put this Braille app up against a Dvorak layout. If they could find anyone that can actually use the Dvorak layout effectively.

    February 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Reply
    • RandomGuy

      Dvorak Layout or any other of its incarnations are no more effective than QWERTY. Whatever you are use to using is going to have the advantage – how are you with the Dvorak?

      Even if the funding and investments were available at the time of its inception – it still wouldn't have been a viable typing option. You may quote Barbara Blackburn as the proof of its superiority, but I will mention Stella Pajunas-Garnand who clocked in ahead of her in WPM (granted, not as impressisve as a consistent time frame) however; Baraba Blackburn was a writer – so she's bound to be good using the tools of her trade.

      All of that being said, the comparison is moot given that a blind person or a visually impaired person can't see (QWERTY, Dvorak or otherwise) Obviously Braille would be a faster alternative – they can't see the screen.

      So why would you put it Braille up against anything else? When creating a device soley directed towards those who cannot or have extreme difficulty seeing. That'd be the same as a person who wears glasses going against someone with 20/20 vision and saying "Let's see Glasses up against Squinting. Then I'll be impressed".


      February 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Reply
  84. Frank

    I think it's wonderful for those with no choice, but for others, who the heck wants to hear letters and words recited back (especially sensistive information).

    The inverse of this , voice recognition, that we were all supposed to be using back in the 90's never caught on with the masses because the experience basically sucked – this doesn't sound much better.

    February 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Reply
    • Mario Romero

      You're right. Not everyone wants that kind of feedback. You can turn it off or into a "click" sound. Thanks for your post.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:51 am | Reply
    • steeve-o

      Well, not only that, but the phone is facing away from you. Someone could read the letters you're writing pretty easily.

      February 21, 2012 at 7:41 am | Reply
      • Mario Romero

        That is correct too. You can also turn the screen off or face it down. The version of BrailleTouch in the video is for demonstration purposes. Thanks!

        February 21, 2012 at 11:14 am |

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