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BlindShell - making smart phones accessible for the visually impaired

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BlindShell (BlindShell - making smart phones accessible for the visually impaired )

Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2015-12-31

BlindShell is an innovative smartphone that seeks to solve a major social problem by assisting visually impaired people to utilize modern touchscreen smart phones. It addresses this problem by providing a simple, intuitive and low-cost phone with optimized application. The application replaces the phone’s default interface with an easy-to-use interface controlled by touch gestures, giving visually impaired people the ability to communicate and use an expanding set of tools. In doing so, BlindShell fundamentally improves daily life quality of visually impaired users, who must otherwise rely on outdated classic handsets or purchase expensive specialized hardware. Our aim is to offer low-cost solution both for developed world (Pro version) and developing countries (Easy version). BlindShell’s software application replaces the normal interface with one tailored for the visually impaired, with minimalistic design, large white-on-black text and a large number pad. Commands are given through four simple finger movements, and feedback is provided to the user via text-to-voice announcements and vibrations. Functionality available includes: call; SMS; contacts; alarm clock; notes; calendar; book reader; integration of the biggest online digital library Bookshare; colour recognition tool (via camera), banknote recognition tool (via camera); and magnifying glass (via camera). BlindShell is currently available in thirteen languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Dutch, Polish and Czech. Regarding business model, a partnership model is used. Currently, we have acquired 14 partners from 9 countries. We are continuously extending our network focusing on cooperation with mobile operators where three partners are being negotiated. A US patent has been filled along with European trademark for BlindShell wording and logo. In order to expand the concept to developing world, we started cooperation with a big hardware producer focusing on production of low-cost branded model. We initiated negotiations with several partners from developing world: one mobile operator and several eye clinics in India.
An user study was performed, lesson learned:
- integration of Wi-Fi or data mobile feature.
- automatic updates of BlindShell software. All future update will be free for users.
- control of user-interface by voice recognition using Google Now engine (now in beta).
- text input by voice recognition (now in beta).
- integration of text recognition (OCR) within magnifier glass functionality (now in beta).
- development of a plastic frame for stabilizing zoom function using 3D
integration of book libraries: BookShare and KDD. Bookshare is the biggest world library of English textbooks including more than 300.000 titles. KDD (library of digital documents, Knihovna Digitálních Dokumentů) is the largest Czech library having more than 10.000 titles. The format of a book could be txt or daisy.
- integration of pdf manual on web directly to the menu-like-structure in UI interface

12 new business partners have been acquired, indirect sales model has been defined and prizing strategy has been established.

Selection of a branded phone has been started with Foxconn company. Several models are being analyzed from point of view usability, software and hardware stability.

Several meeting and talks with mobile operators were initiated.

A patent has been filled and EU trademark (logo, wording) has been registred.

Dissemination activities have been performed:
- Interview for Deutche Welle, programe ‪‎DWSpectrum‬.‬‬‬‬‬
- BlindShell was selected for Central European ICT StartUp Event, London, UK.
- BlindShell was selected to present its product in the biggest European start-up event Slush, Helsinki, Finland.
- BlindShell product was reviewed in prestigious healthcare web portal Medgadget
- BlindShell was winner of European Youth Awards 2015, Graz, Austria
Technical part

- Integration of OCR technology and control of the phone by the voice (using Google services)

- Low-cost branded phone with optimized BlindShell application

Business part

- Acquisition of 10 new partners in Europe

- Selling the phone via mobile operators, acquiring three mobile operators

- Introduction to Blindshell phone to USA

- Operating in the first developing country, preferably India

- Expanding network of country managers (one in Italy, Spain, USA, India)

Impact part
BlindShell project is run by Matapo Ltd which is a social company. The impact is straightforward. However, with expansion to developing countries, we will be able to address the needs of low income population where no financial support does not exist compared to Europe. Therefore, the production of low cost phone (ideally below 150 dollars) will be very important for further growth of the company.
BlindShell was winner of European Youth Awards 2015, Graz, Austria
BlindShell Product