For the past two years, Alibaba’s $15 BIllion R&D initiative Damo Academy has been working to provide better smartphone experience to the blind. Recently, in a joint effort with China’s Tsinghua University, it has come up with a silicone sheet which comes on the top of a smartphone. There are about one hundred blind users to get a trial of the technology on Alibaba online shopping. The sheet provides three mini buttons on each side. These buttons are sensory-enabled. It means that If a user presses them, it will trigger certain commands. These commands are usually those which are frequently used, like ‘Go back’ and ‘Confirm’.
A user of the silicone sheet, Li Mengqi, says that it is easier to shop with this sheet on. These button shortcuts reduce the risk of misclicking anything and also it reduces the need for complex interactions with the screens. Smart touch is a human-machine interaction. It is the same technology, which allows voice control devices possible. This smart touch is not only or fingers. But it also works when the users hold their phones to their ears. It allows the users to hear the text ore quickly before it comes out through speakers or headphones.
Smart touch will need the users to double click on the silicone button in order to make a command work. It works only on Alibaba’s two flagship apps, the e-commerce marketplace Taobao and on payment affiliate Alipay. These silicone buttons automatically take on different functions when the users shift from one app to another. The only problem is, that it is hard to beta test Smart Touch as the blind population is relatively smaller.
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