Just a few years ago, independent online shopping was completely inaccessible to 23-year-old Chinese woman Li Mengqi - she is blind from birth. When smartphones with the function of converting text to speech appeared, she immediately bought an iPhone, even despite the high price - because other models are often simply not suitable for disabled people.
Today, the screens of many modern smartphones open up great opportunities for people with impaired vision, thanks to special applications. However, in addition to valuable information, there is a lot of superfluous information on the screen that requires a deeper explanation. This is how digital readers do not decode human thoughts, so when Lee works with e-commerce applications, he receives inaccurate, misleading descriptions from them, making it difficult to find the right product.
Over the past two years, Alibaba has invested more than $ 15 billion in a global initiative called Alibaba Damo Academy, which is researching to improve the smartphone interface for the blind. The latest development in cooperation with Xinhua University is an inexpensive (only $ 1) special plastic film for the screen.
It is almost invisible, but if you gently run your fingers over it, you can feel three vertically located buttons on the right and left. By clicking on each of them, a specific command is launched, for example, "back" or "confirm".
The smartphone add-on enables blind and visually impaired shoppers to shop online without assistance. Currently, the program only works with two of Alibaba's most popular apps - Taobao Online Store and Alipay. The film will be available to users in early 2019.