One of the things that irks me the most with iDevices is the virtual keyboard. Sure, I can tap away quick text messages and the like, but it's not really feasible for long typing sessions. I resort to Bluetooth keyboards for that sort of thing. But what if I could input text via braille characters? A group at Georgia Institute of Technology has partnered up with BrailleTech LLC and accomplished this feat.
Introducing BrailleTouch, the virtual braille keyboard. This app, available as a free download from the app store, turns the iDevice touch screen into a braille keyboard. When you first run the app, you are presented with a welcome screen, which gives you a brief overview of the app's functionality.
Instructions are fairly straightforward. Your device is forced into landscape mode , (that's sideways). Swipe left or right with a one fingered gesture to go through the help screens. Activate the "start typing" button by double tapping on it, tap once to activate edit mode and then you can start brailing. Hold the phone with the screen away from you in landscape mode, (that's sideways with the home button to the right). Ignore VoiceOver's instruction of having the home button to the left. It doesn't apply in this situation.
Your left hand will be dots 1, 2, and 3. While your right hand will be dots 4, 5 and 6. The default braille cell configuration for BrailleTouch seems to have dots 1 and 4 at the top of the screen. For some reason, this doesn't seem to work well for me. Fortunately, this app does have settings that you can tinker with. These are found under the iDevice settings area. You can flip dots 1, 3, 4 and 6. I tend to braille faster that way. There are many other settings there that I'll let you explore. The help information states to hold the phone away from you, but I prefer to have it on a flat surface and brailling that way.
The free app will let you practice brailing text. To have full functionality of the app, such as copying text to the clipboard, sending text messages, tweets and email messages, you would need to do an in-app purchase. This is accomplished by the "upgrade" button in the menu.
In regards to practicing, I would suggest starting with brailing your name.
Flick right with one finger for spacebar simulation.
Flick left with one finger to delete a character.
Flick right with 2 fingers to create a new line.
Flick left with 2 fingers to get back to the menu.
And that's about it for a quick overview. Please note, contracted braille is currently not supported. Play around with this app and see how much faster you can input text.
For more information on BrailleTouch and whose behind this nifty app, visit:
By: Martin Courcelles