Friday, March 11, 2011

New iPhone app reads American money for blind people

From Daily Tech:

A new iPhone app could help the visually impaired recognize the difference between denominations of U.S. currency.

Walking up to a store register and paying for something with cash can be extremely difficult for the millions of blind people residing in the United States. With dollar bills being the same shape and size, no matter the amount, it's hard for the visually impaired to distinguish between a $1 bill, $10 bills or $100 bill. Often, a blind person will set up methods of recognizing the difference between each denomination by folding them into separate shapes and sizes, but now, an iPhone app may make life much easier than that.

The new application is the LookTel Money Reader, and it is able to distinguish the difference between a $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bill. According to LookTel, which is made by Ipplex, the new app does not require an internet connection and can read the denomination in real-time.

The app utilizes the iPhone's camera as a way of reading the denomination of the bill. Once a user has waved the dollar bill in front of the iPhone's camera, it will announce the value of that bill aloud.

While this new app could prove to be useful for the visually impaired, it isn't the first app to do so. For instance, Austin Seraphin, a blind U.S. citizen, has said that the iPhone has changed his life forever. In his blog, he has noted how accessible the iPhone is for blind people, and even called Apple's mobile device "the greatest thing to happen to the blind for a very long time, possibly ever."

According to Seraphin, Apple's VoiceOver feature is the most helpful characteristic of the iPhone. It reads messages and other apps like stocks and weather aloud, allowing the visually impaired to control and browse the iPhone's touch screen.

In addition, a color-picking app called Color Identifier allows Seraphin to aim the iPhone's camera in a certain direction, and it describes the colors around him.

Seraphin has admitted that some apps are not as accessible as others, such as iTunes, but the apps and features that do allow him to maneuver the device are an excellent start that helps to make life easier, and the new LookTel Money Reader is another addition to the growing number of apps helping to make the iPhone more accessible to the visually impaired.

The LookTel Money Reader is available for $2 on the Apple iOS platform. LookTel noted that the Money Reader "will soon be available on other platforms."