We were inspired by the lack of easy accessibility of information to the blind. Over 200 million people have some form of visual impairment. 39 million of those are blind. And let’s face the fact, while those visually impaired can use smart technology, their access to it is clunky and poorly done. Is there any reason why visually impaired people should have a harder time accessing knowledge? No, that is not a rhetorical question. The answer is no, and that is why we developed this app, called Voicepedia, to help the blind and the visually impaired.

What it does

Voicepedia is simple - you open the app, wait for the vibration, and then speak. It brings up the wikipedia article of your search, and reads it too you. Unlike other blind-friendly search engines, Voicepedia is completely hands free, and very easy to use.

How we built it

We wrote the app in Objective-C, using Xcode as our IDE. To make the app, we had to use some really interesting technologies. First, we implemented a speech-to-text engine so the app can understand the user. Then, we developed a three-part algorithm to find, extract, and parse a Wikipedia article that most nearly matches what the user said. Each part of the algorithm uses the Wikipedia API and JSON to extract information about the article. The first part finds the title of the article, the second part finds the ID of the article, which is necessary to get text from the article, and the third part extracts the article itself.

Challenges we ran into

The main challenge that we ran into was to differentiate our app from the competition. To do this, we implemented a system which lets users choose which parts of an article they want read aloud. Other challenges included figuring out how to use the Wikipedia API to to get a parsable JSON feed, and streamlining the user experience.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We're proud of the fact that we've create the first mobile app focused on enabling easy and comprehensive Wikipedia access for the blind.

What's next for Voicepedia

Voicepedia is now live on the iOS App Store! Click on the link below to download.

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