05:55 PM

Touchscreens Are A Terrible UI For The Blind And Dyslexic

Intel senior principal engineer David Poisner 1024x743

Above, David Poisner, Intel senior principal engineer has 73 patents.

By Intel Free Press

Smartphones put computing power in our pockets, but they can create a digital divide of sorts that the blind and dyslexic struggle to cross, according to an engineer who has invented technologies to help the visually impaired.

“Phones and the cameras inside them have caught up with the march of technology, and so has their processing power, but the problem with a smartphone is the buttons,” said David Poisner, an Intel senior principal engineer. “There are none, and that’s a problem if you’re blind.”

Poisner has been working on technologies to aid the visually impaired since before the smartphone touchscreen revolution. He was lead hardware architect during the design and development of the Intel Reader, a handheld device that reads aloud printed text captured by an internal camera.

The device can read up to 400 words a minute, which can benefit not only the blind but also those with dyslexia who often read at 10 to 15 words a minute.

When the product launched in 2009, Poisner said that it brought portability and affordability to point-shoot-listen devices already in market.

“There were products out there already,” Poisner said of the Intel Reader, “but at the time those were thousands of dollars and ours was about a third of the price, and none of them was portable like ours. We really concentrated on the user interface with the way the buttons were laid out and the menus were organized.”

His instrumental role in inventing the Intel Reader represents only one of the 73 patents that Poisner has been issued over his 27-year career at Intel. His first patent, filed in 1995, was for a power management mechanism for the Intel 430TX chipset.

A faux bifocal…

Poisner, estimates that less than one-fifth of his ideas result in patents. He recently filed a patent for a mechanism that changes the font size of text displayed on a smartphone depending on the distance between the user’s face and the device.

“You can opt to have the text get larger the farther away the phone is,” said Poisner, who developed the technology with colleague Yuri Krimon, who is also based at Intel’s campus in Folsom, Calif. “It’s different from what’s already out in the marketplace.”

The light bulb for many of those ideas goes off while driving or in the shower, according to Poisner, but having his name associated with inventions isn’t what motivates him.

“I get a really large amount of satisfaction from getting great products to market and knowing that my work and inventions that helped make it happen also help people,” he said.