Mobile Devices to be efficiently accessible IBM teams up with Universities

IBM (NYSE: IBM), the
National Institute of Design (NID) of India and Research Center for
Advanced Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo (RCAST) today
announced a new collaborative research initiative to explore an open,
common user interface platform for mobile devices, to make them easier
to use for disadvantaged populations around the world.

developed by IBM Research and the universities will be made available
as open source, and other materials developed will be made publicly
available, in order to allow governments and businesses around the
world to take advantage of the technology. As the world’s
infrastructure becomes increasingly digital and governments around the
world provide information and services via Web sites, it’s critical
that the Internet be accessible to all people, including those who are
illiterate, blind, deaf, or elderly. The aim of the collaborative
research is to help make this possible.

The new research partnership is part of the IBM’s Open Collaborative
Research program, an initiative to foster innovation through
university-industry research collaboration. RCAST is the first
university affiliated research institute in Japan to participate in the
Open Collaborative Research program, and NID is the second university
in India.  

"Through this collaborative research initiative, we will uncover
real information accessibility requirements and issues that the elderly
and people in developing economies are facing today," said Chieko
Asakawa, IBM Fellow and chief technology officer of IBM’s accessibility
research. "By focusing on mobile devices, which have a tremendous
potential to empower them, we believe the findings will help us offer
affordable services to a large population, who are still deprived of
access to key information sources."

Mobile phones have had phenomenal penetration globally. Low cost of
ownership and a simple user interface contribute to the success of
mobile phones with the less literate. However, apart from basic voice
communication, illiterate populations are not able to exploit the
benefits of information and services available to Internet users. IBM
Research – India and NID will identify the communication needs and
preferences of the non- and semi-literate population, to not only help
them connect but to engage with information through mobile devices.  

"By bringing IBM’s deep knowledge in mobile web and NID’s interface
design and ethnological expertise, this initiative is aimed to develop
inclusive technologies and help the underprivileged improve their
lives," said Dr. Jignesh Khakhar of NID.

IBM researchers in Tokyo and the human information engineering
research team, led by Professor Tohru Ifukube of RCAST, will place
their research focus on Japan’s elderly population, where the aging
rate is growing at a rapid pace, making Japan the world’s most elderly
population. With IBM’s accessibility technology expertise and RCAST’s
expertise, they will work directly with the elderly to investigate and
determine real-life requirements of elderly people when using mobile

"New technologies and various new services will continue to emerge,
and mobile devices will become a window of opportunity for us to engage
with information anytime anyplace," said Professor Tohru Ifukube of
RCAST. "With IBM’s expertise in accessibility technologies and mobile
web technologies, coupled with our expertise in five-senses
communication and NID’s interface design expertise, we are looking
forward to develop inclusive technologies for elderly population to
help improve quality of life."

In 2009, IBM was recognized with India’s National Award in the
category of "Technological Innovation" for best applied research aimed
at improving the life of persons with disabilities – India’s highest
such award. It recognized the work of IBM Researchers in creating
technology for what IBM calls the "Spoken Web." This voice-enabled
technology, developed by IBM Research – India, complements the
Internet, and enables people with little or no literacy, or those with
visual impairment, to access and share information, perform business
transactions, and create social networks using mobile or landline
phones. IBM was also recognized with the 2009 Helen Keller Award from
India’s National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled
People. The honor lauded IBM for demonstrating policies and practices
that provide equal employment opportunities for people with
disabilities. IBM has earned these significant awards for three years
in a row.

IBM has a distinguished history in developing accessibility
technology. The company developed a Braille printer in 1975 and a
talking typewriter for the blind in 1980. More recently, IBM created
the Home Page Reader, a browser that narrates Web content. In 2008, IBM
earned the Helen Keller Achievement Award in Accessibility from the
American Foundation for the Blind.


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