‘Near field communication’ allows for short-range, device-to-device transmissions. It’s already being used to transmit credit card information, and in some museums, it’s replacing printed brochures with digital ones.
Now it could be used to help break down the barrier between the visually impaired and the text around them, Popular Science reports.
About 21.5 million Americans have impaired vision… they can see, but often with difficulty or only at close distances.
Some smartphones can help low-vision users work with small screens. Apple’s iOS lets you enlarge the point size of the font up to 56 and also features VoiceOver that dictates whatever is on the screen (tap the mail icon, and the app will say, “Mail. Two new items”). For Android phones, an app called Mobile Accessibility provides similar features.
Third-party apps like LookTel Recognizer uses object-recognition software and the phone’s camera to identify items — but for it to work, users have to first save images into the app’s library. Many similar apps need internet connection to work.
NFC, on the other hand, could enable users to pull information on anything they encounter directly to their phone.
When you wave an NFC-enabled phone within a couple inches of an NFC tag — a sticker containing a radio and a small memory chip that holds content — the devices ‘see’ one another’s electromagnetic signatures, connect, and then pass data across the 13.56-megahertz frequency.
Google has released Android 4.0, an operating system that natively supports NFC. LG and Samsung have announced NFC-equipped phones. NFC tags are sold for only a few cents each, and the NFC Forum, responsible for developing NFC specifications, has issued licenses to more than 1,100 companies.
- A couple licenses are for companies running pilot programs to help the visually impaired read fine print.
- VTT Technical Research Center of Finland placed tags on pill bottles. When tapped, the tags send voice memos with dosage instructions and drug indications.
- A group of grocers in France tested a similar system from a company called Think&Go to transmit large-text nutrition information.
- A future use could be audio versions of a menu in a dimly lit restaurant.
[From Popular Science]
Image: NFC-enabled phone interacting with poster / Timo Arnall via Wikimedia