HearSay : Websurfing for Visual Impaired
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The HearSay research project, lead by Professor I.V. Ramakrishnan and his former student Dr. Yevgen Borodin, was launched at Stony Brook University in 2004 with the goal of developing the state-of-the-art audio Web browser for users with vision impairments. Since then, with the generous support from the National Science Foundation (IIS-0534419, IIS-0808678, and CNS-0751083), the HearSay has become an umbrella project for a series of smaller research endeavors, focusing on information extraction, user modeling and personalization, mobile devices, and speech technologies. All the HearSay subprojects ultimately converge on one common goal – making web browsing intuitive and user-friendly for a wide range of user groups, including highly mobile youngsters, working adults, elderly people, and people with disabilities.
In its current state, the HearSay Web browser is intended to be used primarily by people with vision impairments to quickly access relevant information, cope with dynamic content, and perform their everyday browsing activities more efficiently. The HearSay research team is now directing their efforts to bringing voice browsing to mobile devices, whose continued miniaturization and portability will especially benefit from audio interfaces. Finally, the open-source nature of the HearSay project enables active collaboration between the academia and the industry, making it easy for other researchers and developers to reuse HearSay components and build their products on the HearSay infrastructure.
"We have been working on an Assistive Web Browser over the last few years and are now ready to take it to the next level," said Professor Ramakrishnan. The HearSay browser will employ contextual, computational, and cognitive models to make aural web browsing natural and easy to use. The investigators are actively collaborating with other academic and industrial research labs around the world, including IBM’s Tokyo Research Lab, all of which are working toward bridging the Web accessibility divide currently limiting access to online information and services for over 175 million people with vision impairments worldwide.