Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM), through its Wireless ReachTM initiative, and Project RAY Ltd., which designs accessibility tools for blind and visually impaired people, today announced that they have developed the RAY mobile device, an always-on, easy-to-use, multi-function, smartphone that is synchronized with Israel’s Central Library for the Blind, Visually Impaired and Handicapped audio books content. This collaboration sets a new standard in accessibility tools and ease of use for visually impaired people.
According to the World Health Organization, “285 million people are visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 have low vision…About 65 percent of all people who are visually impaired are aged 50 and older, while this age group comprises about 20 percent of the world’s population. With an increasing elderly population in many countries, more people will be at risk of age-related visual impairment.”
Today, the majority of blind and visually impaired people use simple 2G mobile phones for voice telephony only. In addition, they depend on an array of specialty devices, such as audio book-readers, color readers, navigation tools, raised Braille labels, special bar-code scanners, and large-buttoned, voice-enabled MP3 players which are prohibitively expensive. Based on an off-the-shelf Android OS smartphone powered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.’s Qualcomm Snapdragon™ processor, the Project RAY device integrates the capabilities of smartphone technology and the capabilities of these multiple specialty devices into a single, cost-effective handset with 24/7 mobile broadband connectivity and a UI designed for eye-free interaction. A trial project is currently underway that is testing the new system with 100 participants throughout Israel.
“The breakthrough UI defines a new language for human-device interaction that is built ground-up for eye-free operation,” said Boaz Zilberman, chief executive officer of Project RAY. “The user touches any position on the screen and that position becomes the starting point for selecting an audio-book, messaging or other activity. Navigation is enabled by a few simple finger movements in different directions. The phone’s built-in vibration capabilities and voice prompts provide user feedback and the UI learns to adapt its behavior based on users’ preferences and usage patterns.”
The UI supports a rich set of services, including phone calls, text messaging with vocal read-out, navigation, object recognition, social network services, remote assistance, audio-book reading, and other leisure and entertainment offerings.
“Audio-books, magazines and periodicals are an important method for accessing information for blind and visually impaired people, but the current system requires renting items by mail, which is not timely. Subscribers can now use RAY devices to easily access and download audio assets from the library over an advanced mobile broadband network, rather than waiting to receive CD copies,” said Amos Beer, chief executive officer of the Central Library for the Blind, Visually Impaired and Handicapped. “Our library is delighted to be working with Qualcomm and Project RAY to build a system enabling people with vision impairments to remotely access and download audio assets from the library. Also, the system is being designed specifically for Project RAY devices and specific user identities to ensure digital rights management protection for copyrighted material.”
“We believe the Project RAY device will enhance the ability of blind and visually impaired people to access resources and information independently,” said Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel for Qualcomm. “This project, which is part of our Wireless Reach initiative, demonstrates one of the many ways Qualcomm technology can improve people’s lives and we are proud to support this important program.”
About Project RAY
Project RAY Ltd. develops and markets breakthrough accessibility solutions for blind and visually impaired. RAY is an integrated mobile device designed to assist visually impaired people and their families in their daily life. RAY leverages cutting edge mobile technologies to increase independence, enrich social life and improve accessibility of essential services for the visually impaired.
About the Central Library for the Blind, Visually Impaired and Handicapped
The Central Library for the Blind is a registered non-profit organization that was established 60 years ago. It serves some 10,000 subscribers. The Library serves blind, visually impaired and reading-impaired people (those with learning difficulties and anyone who is unable to hold a book due to a physical limitation, such as ALS). The subscription cost is very low, at NIS100 per year. Donations to the Library are recognized according to Israeli income-tax regulation 46.
The majority of the Library’s activity consists of recording books, while remaining resources are directed toward production of books in Braille and large print. Additionally, the Library produces, free of charge, recorded educational material for people who need it, even if it is only for one pupil.
The Library has always made a point of using highly advanced technology, whilst adapting products to the technological systems that are popular with subscribers. Beyond the daily operation of the Library, which is funded by a government budget, the Library staff continually develops and implements projects to increase efficiency, for the benefit of subscribers, and these projects are funded by various donors in Israel and throughout the world.
Due to the constant need for many donations, the Library maintains full transparency regarding its activities and use of different funds. Most of the Library’s products can be ascribed a value, and this means that each donor can allocate a donation for a specific purpose that is close to his or her heart. The Library management ensures that each donation is used to improve the service to our thousands of subscribers.
For additional information about the Library www.clfb.org.il
Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) is the world leader in 3G, 4G and next-generation wireless technologies. For more than 25 years, Qualcomm ideas and inventions have driven the evolution of digital communications, linking people everywhere more closely to information, entertainment and each other. For more information, visit Qualcomm’s website, OnQ blog, Twitter and Facebook pages.