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VERSE to Make Web Browsing Easy For Blind

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Published on : Aug 20, 2019

Scientists have come up with a new voice assistant which helps visually impaired people to have an access to web content effortlessly and fast, from the devices such as smart speakers and so on.

In a recent study by the University of Waterloo Faculty of Mathematics, led by Alexandra Vtyurina, collaborated with the researchers of Microsoft and Leah Findlater, the assistant professors at the University of Washington's, They discovered a way to integrate screen readers with the most advanced and latest features of voice assistants, and developed a tool to help visually impaired people with free-form internet surfing. The tool is named VERSE, which stands for Voice Exploration, Retrieval, and Search.

Vtyurina, a Ph.D. candidate in Waterloo's David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, and author of the study said that the people who are visually impaired usually are dependent on screen readers and voice-based assistants while interacting through computers. Vtyurina Took up the research during her internship with Microsoft. She says, though virtual assistants are helpful to some extent, but it fails when it comes to engage with the content deeply, for example, reading more than just first few sentences of an article, or give optional search results along with the suggestions. However, the screen readers help readers to have a deep engagement with the content and also give improved navigation options and controls.

 VERSE can be Integrated with Smartphone Apps which Act like Input Accelerator

The author of the study also said, the prototype of VERSE integrate screen reader like properties to voice assistant, which enables other devices like smartwatches to act as input accelerators for smart speakers.

Voice is the basic input method in VERSE. So, a user can give commands such as, “next”, “back”, “previous”, “forward” and so on. The tool can also be integrated with the apps on smart watch and smartphone. These devices act as the input accelerators, just like shortcuts on keyboard.