Product Ideas for Visually Impaired

The NextGen PC Design Competition chose their winners, and unfortunately neither of the products I was rooting for has won. In fact, of all the innovative ideas in the competition the one that won the prize money was for a PC that is like writing on a napkin. While it’s a mildly cute concept, the fact that it beat out 2 concepts I loved is less than pleasing.

My two favorite concepts both dealt with accessibility, and either of them could cause a huge shift in the way visually impaired people use the internet (or a computer period). I was really hopeful that at least 1 of these two wins some of the prize money. It might have been enough to jump start a marketing run to get more funding for production.

My Favorite: Siafu

A photograph of Siafu turning text into braille.

Siafu does what we already have technology for (turning text into dynamic braille). However, it also takes it a step further: By allowing websites to be displayed, as designed, in raised relief:

Siafu showing a website in raised relief.

I could talk for hours about how wonderful that would be to both web developers and people who need the technology.

My Second Favorite: Zen

Shows the ability to drag your hand over the screen to turn on, and sync phones by placing them on the platform.

The ability to ‘rake’ your hand over the platform to turn on the computer is just wonderful usability. I also love the concept of being able to simply place your phone / pda etc.. anywhere on the platform to have it sync with your computer.

Shows the flexibility of the platform to generate a raised keyboard, piano, and various other tools.

The Zen really takes on the ability to simulate pretty much anything it runs across in a raised fashion, and that could really open some doors in functionality for people who need assistive technology.

Overall, there are some really great ideas out there for accessible tools – but I’m still disappointed that neither of them received the prize money to make any of those concepts a reality. Don’t lose heart though, apparently we’ll soon see technology that will allow us to jot down notes on napkins!