A group of researchers at Georgia Tech have created a new piece of software called BrailleTouch that allows users to type on a smartphone without looking at the screen. It takes advantage of gestures and multitouch interaction to support a chorded typing system that is modeled after Braille keyboards.
A group of visually impaired test subjects using the application on an iPhone were reportedly able to type at up to 32 words per minute with 92 percent accuracy. This speed is said to be considerably faster than what has previously been achieved with other “eyes-free” text input prototypes.
The researchers contend that the chorded typing system used by BrailleTouch is easy to learn and that it could potentially be useful to a broader audience, including sighted users who want to be able to type on their phone without looking. The interface has six dots, three on each side of the screen. The user holds the phone in landscape orientation with the screen facing away from them and types by tapping the dots.
“Research has shown that chorded, or gesture-based, texting is a viable solution for eyes-free written communication in the future, making obsolete the need for users to look at their devices while inputting text on them,” the project’s lead researcher, Mario Romero, told is in a statement.
The researchers intend to distribute the program under an open source software license. They are also working on ports to other platforms, including Android. For additional details about the software, you can reader a paper(PDF) published by the researchers. You can also see it in action in a YouTube video.