Comments on the project Ray cell phone for the blind

Here is a comment I recieved after my recent post about specialized cell phones for the blind. I’ll post the message below for everyone to read and comment on.

Hay Rick,
My name is Adi Kushnir and I am a 15 year old blind person from Israel.
Yes, I’m only 15 years old, but I do a lot of things for the community here such as localizing big screen readers such as JAWS from FS to Hebrew and trying to give the community the latest and greatest, without getting paid, yes, I am a geek and I want to change people’s lives with what I can!
I love technology and I don’t want for Israel to stay behind.
I am also applying in programs such as Apple developer where I can test the latest things happening in iOS and so on, and my opinion is very strong with the community here, and the big assistive technology companies.
First of all, I would like to thank you for the great content that you’ve been providing us for years now, I always love to listen to you and if I had some money, I would even donated to your website, I just can’t do that because I don’t have a lot and I do everything I do from just the wanting to help everyone here.

I want to explain to you a little bit about this smartphone for Project Ray and what I think about it, and you can feel free to share it with the community in the US, in every place you like to.
I feel comfortable talking about it because I’ve used it, and tested it for over and over, and herd so much about it, and I don’t want people to make a wrong choice.

The device named Ray was first introduced here in early 2013, with the following title in the press:
“the first touch screen phone for the blind that was ever made in the world – a great Israeli development that can revolutionize people’s lives – no one has done something like this before!”
This was the title in all around the press.
The founder of Project Ray, Mr. Boaz Zilberman, said that with his phone, a blind person can have a fully functioning smartphone, including the most basic services such as SMS, calling, contacts and a little bit of email.
He said that before, blind people in Israel and in the rest of the world, can only call on their mobiles, and not more.

Before his job, we had great Symbian phones with Talks and a Hebrew TTS, and of course the iPhone, which still unfortunately doesn’t have Hebrew TTS although it may change in iOS 7, I’ll explain later why because I’m under NDA and can’t share that much.

So for the first time, all of us here were criticizing Mr. Zilberman for saying that he is the first to bring other things then calling to our mobiles, and that he is the first to bring an accessible smartphone, and an accessible touch screen device.

Later on, we’ve decided to give him a chance and test drive his product and we were shocked!
It’s so un practical to use this device and let me explain why:

First of all, just to tell you about the phone itself, and what It contains, inturmes of hardware and software:

The phone is a generic sluggish old Android phone that is manufactured by a not known phone vender, probably some ware in China.
It has a very slow CPu, and doesn’t have much ram, and you can get it in 8 GB and 32GB storage capacities.
The OS it runs on is old, sluggish and un powerful inturmes of touch access, Android 2.3 gingerbread, which is not as good as newer versions such as Jellybean, 4.1 and 2.
The special talking and quote and quote “accessible” quote and quote Ray apps, are just a simple special Android home screen, that can be easily accidentally dismissed, and then you get an inaccessible Android 2.3, without even talkback installed so you are stuck until someone will come back to this home screen for you.
The speech inside his special interface, is sometimes prerecorded, and sometimes TTS spoken, this is the case at least with the Israeli version.

Now I begin the problematic concept:

His concept is based on that where ever you put on your finger, it acts as the number 5, and then moving your finger up, down, right or left does different actions, depending what you want and where you are in the phone, and the number 5 position acts like your center.
Now, if you accidentally get your finger up and then put it again, you will have a different center position.
It’s very hard to type things such as SMS and even dial numbers to do voice calls!
And, his touch mechanism doesn’t always work right, and sometimes it doesn’t detect your finger and you can easily find yourself doing un wanted things in your phone.
Now to the contacts:
The actual contacts app isn’t really usable, so you have 2 options:
The first one, is to call Project Ray or the provider in the US so they will add these for you via a phone push service, and the 2nd option is for you to add them from a special website.
Mr. Zilberman says that a good contacts app will be added in future versions, and here as another aspect:
There are no updates!
A different version means buying a totally new phone each time!

Even those apps like color identification and camera capture aren’t accessible.
The only reasonable thing you can do are the books services, and even that is hard.

All of the people here in Israel that have bought this device have returned it within a week, and told him that they will prefer an English iPhone or even Talks then his work.
People don’t want to hear about him anymore, and we knew that the Ray devices come to the states and we are so much unhappy.
But, that’s up for the people to decide.
I just don’t want blind people buy things that they will not make good use of.

Nuance Communications has released a new generation of Vocalizer TTS, called Vocalizer Expressive with a good Hebrew voice inside, so we hope to have Hebrew access in iOS 7.
No one from Israel will buy ray!

I just wanted to share with you the real facts about this phone, and yes, it’s not different for the US, it’s just an English user interface.
Again, feel free to share it every ware including your podcasts, and if you want to be in contact with me so,
My skype is adi.kushnir
And of course keep my email.

Thank you for such a great content, and sorry for my bad English! I do my best!

Adi Kushnir.

Please feel free to comment on this post.


Rick