As technology becomes an essential part of our lives, all while constantly improving, many have drastically improved their quality of life. Physically disabled individuals are now at a point where bodily impairments no longer mean inability to live life to the fullest.
A University of Massachusetts Boston Ph.D. candidate in the Computer Science department Joseph Paul Cohen has developed an app that can help blind people navigate easily through every day life.
The app is called “BlindTool” and is free of charge. The app tells users what is in front of them by pointing the camera of the smartphone in the direction desired. The app processes what is in front of the lens, then converts it into speech for the user. The app also triggers the phone to vibrate depending on how confident it is in the results of the object identification.
According to Cohen, the app was developed rather quickly due to research done last year to study machine-learning concepts in the app. The initial version only took a day of work but he needed another week to eliminate bugs, not to mention adapting the app for other user interfaces.
The idea to create “BlindTool” came to Cohen when he worked with a programmer who was blind several years ago. The individual was able to do the work by using new computer systems and programs.
“I realized how technology could be used to enable blind people. I started thinking about a walking cane that could explain the world to the user.”
Although there are other apps and programs out there for the blind, such as “Be My Eyes” and “TapTapSee,” “BlindTool” offers distinguishing features. It uses an algorithm that analyzes objects based on specific features. The images are processed directly on the phone, which makes it accessible to everyone since it requires the user’s smartphone. The app does not require any interaction from the user but is constantly “speaking” when the user waves their phone around.
As the developer Cohen explains, “I’m releasing this tool for free for the blind because I have hope that this app will help people live a better life.”
Currently, Cohen is running a Kickstarter to gather financial support to develop the next version of this app. Anyone can donate at http://kck.st/1ZceP3v
Apart from this app, Cohen has also developed other free applications such as “On-Campus: UMass Boston” and “News Reporter.” Cohen is also the creator of “Academic Torrents,” an app designed to store and move large amounts of data. As he describes it, it could be the “library of the future.” If you want to support his work of creating and releasing free and open-sourced software, you can donate at http://josephpcohen.com/give/
“BlindTool” is currently available in the Google Play store.