The idea of building _ Tactile Share _ first comes from one of the teammates, Miki's personal experience. Miki once had this chance to visit Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in New York, where she saw braille for the first time and how blind people use the computer with assistive technology. There she identified the need for blind people to read braille image information, and noticed the huge market gap for assistive technology. She went back with the great curiosity about the blind community and their interactions with current assistive technology. After she exchanged her ideas with Xiran, both of them thought that there are still spaces for development for the current assistive technology for blind people. From there they started doing their research and find there existed a big mismatch between a high demand for digital braille image (with printing service) from the blind community and a lack of technical support from the market. And the existing tools that help achieve that demand is quite un-user-friendly. Therefore, the idea of building a better user experience ( a web-based application named Tactile Share) to help blind people have access to braille images emerged.
What it does
_ Tactile Share _ is a web-based image editor, that allows users to convert images into printable images in Braille. Printable images in braille are mostly black and white outlined images (that may be traced from color images). We based our design on the only existing braille image converting tool named Tacktileview and try to redefine the user experience by removing redundant functions and reinventing the user interface. _ Tactile Share _ fills the gap to provide vision-impaired group the freedom and accessible image-based Braille information. While there is a huge demand to generate digital Braille image, only few companies provide such digital service. _ Tactile Share _ is thus designed to bridge that market gap. Freeing both blind and visually healthy group from the bad user experience and outdated user interface, _ Tactile Share _ redefined the user experience of Braille image processing. It is not only friendly to beginners but also creates an online platform that collects Braille information.
How we built it
UX Design - Our design concept is based our user research at the local Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library as well as from online resources. The web application prototype is articulated with Adobe Xd, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop; Functionality - We built two working functions of the app by using p5.js, Flicker AP and responsivevoice.js(library). The two functions are: 1) search for an image on flicker and having voice responses from the research results(flicker API and voice js library); 2) image edge detection: image processing achieved using p5.js
Challenges we ran into
Try to put ourselves in the shoes of the blind people and decide what are the most significant functions we should have in the web application; How to better the experience for blind people to navigate the page (clear audio instructions and logical hierarchy of the page)
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We achieved to create a new interface with only essential functions for the web application; We achieved to build two working functions: 1) image search function with audio guide 2)image edge detection processing function
What we learned
We gain much more knowledge about the blind community, both from a statistical perspective and from an ethnographical perspective. We also learned much more insights on the current existing assistive technology.
What's next for TactileShare
We want to go back to the library again to do more user research and also do a more in-depth research on web assistive technology design. We want to do more user testing and ask feedback from our users. We also want to incorporate the working functions into the web interface design and start to create a real working web.