The Project Ray smartphone looks no different than any other smartphone in the market except that this smartphone is specifically for the blind.
Based in Israel, Project Ray Ltd. currently has three smartphones available for the blind or visually impaired. The cost for these devices is between $450 to $650.
Company founder and CEO Boaz Zilberman said these devices provide lifestyle changing benefits and services to millions of people who need visual help.
“Our Ray smartphone combined with Odin Mobile’s full-cellular services for the blind and visually impaired, will finally bring to this important community the same services available to the mainstream full-sighted community,” Zilberman said.
The Project Ray smartphones have been built from the start solely for this community and features eye-free operation.
These devices come with specialized built-in content along with voice calls, email, messaging, contact list services, calendar, GPS, advanced WEB remote assistance, voice recorder, panic and emergency services. Users of the Project Ray smartphone operate these features by touch and sound-only interaction as it has a common user interface across all system functions, apps and services. A person touches the icon and the smartphone tells the user what it is.
Besides the eye-free user interface, some of the differences between a Ray smart phones and a traditional device are:
- books and magazines are audio based,
- there is banknote identification,
- remote transcription of images from the camera,
- audio announcements of incoming call names or numbers,
- calls are made from the contact list so no dialing, and
- and single gesture access to frequently used functions.
The Project Ray smartphone has the specs of any other device on the market with 1GHz CPU running Android 2.36, four-inch display, five mega-pixel camera and 8GB of memory.
The only issue with Project Ray products is that the service is provided by Odin Mobile and only available in the U.S. and Israel. The company admits it needs help to bring these products to other markets.
Odin Mobile, based in Washington, D.C., is an American service provider that provides mobile communication services to the blind and visually impaired.
Robert Felgar, general manager of Odin Mobile, said this collaboration will provide the blind the ability to access smartphone technology through a unique user interface that emphasizes simplicity and ease of use.
In terms of market size there are more than 285 million people who are visually impaired in the world. Just fewer than 40 million of those people are blind, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Another WHO stat is about 90 per cent of the world’s visually impaired live in developing countries. And, blindness is not trending upwards these days as people visually impaired from infectious diseases have reduced in the last 20 years, according to WHO stats.
Project RAY got off the ground after a partnership with Qualcomm and its Wireless Reach initiative. Qualcomm Wireless Reach is one of Project Ray’s primary funders and Qualcomm also provided technical advice and support.