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Boffins develop sight-free touchscreen phone dialler

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Two Google engineers have answered Stevie Wonder’s recent plea for touchscreen phones to become more accessible to the blind and developed a sight-free phone dialling application for the Android platform.

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Stroke Dialler lets you dial any number between zero and nine by stroking your finger in a specific direction across the screen.

By making five the keypad’s centre number - as is the standard on most touchscreen mobiles – you simply stroke up to reach two or down to reach eight. Each number selected is read out by Stroke Dialler.

The dialling app is just one of several sight-free apps in development by the two Google engineers - TV Raman and Charles Chen – as part of a project called Eyes-Free for Android (EFfA) which aims to develop “a completely eyes-free, single touch, one-handed communications device”.

Other sight-free apps under development include one that tells you the date and another for discovering your current physical location.

To house their eyes-free applications, the pair developed a shell nicknamed Marvin - after the famous paranoid android in the radio series The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Standard Android applications can also be launched through Marvin, though presumably these won’t be controllable without looking at the screen.

Although blind users obviously stand to benefit most from the EFfA, the pair said the apps will also prove useful in situations where you can’t look at the screen, such as when driving or jogging. ®

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