Innovation That Matters

App makes replying to text messages easier for illiterate users


EasySMS uses text-to-speech technology to read out text messages and translates visual symbols into text replies.

We’ve seen a couple of ideas that aim to help illiterate people navigate text content on the web, from Question Box to Wordia. Now, EasySMS app is offering a more visual and aural way for those who can’t read or write to understand and reply to text messages. Developed by students at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, the Windows 7 Phone app takes received text messages and breaks down each word into an interactive button. Users can hear the whole text message read out in a synthesized voice, or click on individual words to hear them read out and then drag those words into their own reply. The app also contains a dictionary of visual symbols which can be incorporated into the text message reply. The user’s contacts list is also made more visual by adding avatars, which can be customized to contain memorable features. According to the team behind EasySMS, the dropping price of mass produced smartphones and greater mobile coverage means they are already being used in poorer rural areas of the world, where many of the more than 800 million people who are illiterate reside. The app enables those who can’t read or write to take full advantage of the technology, as well as easily keep in touch with relatives and friends. The following video explains more about the app: EasySMS was a finalist in the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2011 and is still being tweaked by the development team. One to get involved in early?



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