16 year-old Adi Kushnir is your regular Israeli teenager who goes to school, hangs out with friends, listens to music and takes interest in technology. He is also blind. As a volunteer in the blind community, Kushnir searches for ways to make his life and the lives of his peers easier. He discovered the Inpris UpSense Super Keyboard, which changed every way he interacts with touch technology.
Technology is advancing at an exponential pace; consider that 2007 was the year of the iPhone’s first introduction, a year when Facebook had a paltry 15-20 million users and was mainly a campus phenomena. Our ability to manipulate these technologies depends on human-machine interfaces. Tech companies are busy inventing the next ways we will interact with our machines. However, one sector of today’s tech-savvy population is struggling to keep up – the blind. There are 285 million visually impaired people around the world that are struggling to adopt touch screen technology.
Inpris’s UpSense Super Keyboard is a new technology that bridges this gap.
Established two years ago by father and son (Ben-etzion and Nissan Yaron), the Jerusalem startup had a vision that every person deserves to use everyday technologies comfortably and independently. The fruit of this aspiration is the UpSense Super Keyboard. Based on intuitive multi-finger gestures, this software application makes it possible for even the blind to type with ease on touch screen devices. There are two products: the Braille keyboard and the hand gestures keyboard.
So how does this keyboard actually work?
The UpSense product is created with Inpris innovative technology – Ergonomic Motion Detection – allowing for the device to read designated finger gestures and produce corresponding characters. For example, with the hand gestures keyboard, if one puts down three fingers and drags them upward, the program will produce the letter ‘W’. If one takes these same three fingers and drags them downward, the letter ‘M’ will appear. There is also a customizable feature that enables the user to alter the matching gestures and characters.
The visually impaired user can learn independently how to use the application from a self-help feature built into the program, making it easy to learn and adjust to. Moshe, blind from childhood and who never used a tablet before, was able to type fairly quickly after fifteen minutes of practice.
Shaqed is a special education teacher and is himself blind. He commented, “It’s my first time using this application and I think it’s amazing and I think it’s the future of the Braille because I am working with special educated children and also with blind children, and this application may bring the blind to the front as it must be.” Even Israeli President Shimon Peres was amazed by the UpSense Super Keyboard. “‘This will be a tremendous help to millions of people who until now had no alternative. It’s a brilliant idea,’” said Peres.
Though Inpris’ technology started with its founders, Jerusalem’s SifTech (the Jerusalem Entrepreneurship Center) and the Google BlackBox Accelerator provided the team vital support during the development process. “Those four months [with SifTech] was one of the most important things we did, from defining better the product, target market and access to mentorship and connections… we wouldn’t have gotten to this point with this little money with out SifTech… During this program we realized the need to focus on the visually impaired market.”
The family-owned Jerusalem startup was able to get this far with their own money and 30,000 NIS from the Chief Scientist Office of the Israeli government. The software is in the final stages of development and will first be available on Android-based systems. But they need help raising at least $50,000 in order to launch the commercial product that will exceed users expectations. You can help by joining Inpris’s crowdfunding campaign for UpSense Super Keyboard. You can purchase your own UpSense software and Inpris will donate a touch keyboard to a blind person on your behalf.
Inpris represented Israel at the 2014 World Mobile Conference in Barcelona this February. They took first place at the invite-only TechCrunch pitch contest and were granted a full table at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York City this May.
Father and son hope to revolutionize the typing experience on touch screen devices, enabling the visually impaired to use this “feel and type” approach to communicate intuitively, efficiently and independently. “We want UpSense on every mobile device – for it to be fully accessible to all,” said the Yarons. This keyboard will change the lives of blind people around the world, and inspire individuals like Adi Kushnir to be part of the technology revolution.
This Jerusalem start-up is breaking down transnational barriers between the blind and sighted world.
Please visit Inpris’s crowdfunding campaign to learn more about and to contribute to their revolutionary UpSense Super Keyboard.
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