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Meaningful innovation

Ubi — how ubiquitous computing might advance web accessibility

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Ross Dawson posted about an interesting Kickstarter project, Ubi which provides a device that plugs into an electrical outlet and provides voice-activated access to a variety of services, including the internet.

While there is reference to a key target group for the device being people with visual, hearing, or mobility impairments, the example photos and use scenarios outlined in the video and on the Kickstarter page point to a much broader audience and set of uses.

Thinking about the ability for browsing the internet using such a device, I’m reminded of the importance for developers of sites to ensure they’re using web standards and best practices to ensure the accessibility of their sites, and to provide open APIs to key data to enable custom applications that would run on devices like the Ubi to access relevant data. The reason I suggest this is, essentially, the device is a screen reader applied in quite a different context/use case to what such technology would traditionally be considered in.

I’m intrigued by the possibilities that a device like the Ubi presents. It will be interesting to see how these types of devices evolve and proliferate in the coming years, and how that further impacts the development of online applications and websites for the delivery of services and social innovations.

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