Two Indonesian women are making a difference for the visually and hearing impaired.
Aisyah Widya Nur Shadrina and Savitri Nurhayati were both part of Apple Developer Academy, a broad suite of resources the tech giant provides to support the global developer community.
Both women designed their apps through the guidance of the academy. Click on the names of the apps to download them on your iOS devices.
23-year-old Shadrina and her all-women team used the front-facing camera and machine learning on iPhone to create Hearo.
The iOS app is capable of translating sign language into voice and text, providing a more seamless way to communicate with friends who are deaf.
“We were inspired after we met people with hearing impairment. At that time we had difficulty communicating with them, because they preferred to communicate using sign language, but none of my team members understood sign language. So the only thing we could do to communicate with them was to write down what we wanted to say, and this took a long time,” Shadrina told Mashable Southeast Asia.
Her team realized that it was important to create a tool that could help those hearing impaired to communicate with people who have the ability to hear, and help to build a more inclusive communication.
Shadrina did a lot of research to figure out the best technology that could detect sign language.
“We finally got the solution to use object detection for our first version and later we would implement vision framework in order to make it more accurate in detecting sign language,” the Jakarta-born said.
Due to this, Shadrina said the hearing Impaired community has been really supportive towards the Hearo app.
“They helped us to share the app even without us asking them. The community also share their thoughts about Hearo, and they said that the app is really useful and hope that the Hearo team can improve the accuracy of sign language detection.”
Savitri Nurhayati, on the other hand, founded Teman Netra, an app that fosters independence for the Indonesian visually-impaired community.
It does that by using the iPhone camera and machine learning to help scan and read text on letters, food labels, restaurant menus and currency.
“Teman Netra was greatly inspired by how the visually impaired struggle to do daily chores that include reading. There was a particular interviewee who shared a funny yet sad experience while doing grocery shopping. He bought what he thought was a shampoo refill, only to find out at home that it was a floor cleaning soap. The packaging of the two items were exactly the same,” Nurhayati said to Mashable Southeast Asia.
“Had he been able to read, he would not have gotten the wrong item. Incidents like this are common, because a lot of products have similar packaging, and the only way to differentiate the products are by reading the labels.”
Nurhayati said the interviewee was trying to shop independently because he did not want to burden anyone to keep him company.
“But as you can see, it is almost impossible for the visually impaired to do so without asking for help. This motivated us to empower those with visual impairment with the ability to read texts through our app so they can do most readings independently.”
The major challenge for her team was to design the optimal UX for their users.
“As sighted individuals, we could only assume what UX flow would be best for our target users. When we presented our first few prototypes to our visually impaired users during user testing, most of them found the app hard to navigate and use.”
Through their feedback and insights, the Teman Netra team managed to improve their UX gradually. After countless sessions of User Testing, their app underwent many iterations until they finally had the ideal UX flow that most users were comfortable with.
“User testing itself was a challenge to us at first because our users could not see the app, hence we had to conduct the user testing differently than if we were to design an app for sighted users. We had to instruct them to scan texts and money without guiding them too much.”
The team came up with the idea to use a scoring rubric for each step so they could analyze which part of the flow needed improvement.
“We encouraged our users to think out loud, saying what was on their minds so we could understand their perspectives. We also recorded every user testing session so we could reflect back and redesign a certain flow.”
Turns out, there are thousands more developers that Apple is assisting to produce apps that are beneficial to the society and impacted community groups.
The first Apple Developer Academy opened in Brazil in 2013, with the goal of providing the tools and training for aspiring entrepreneurs, developers, and designers to find and create jobs in the thriving iOS app economy. Since then, the company has opened more than a dozen academies across the world with two more on the way: one in Korea, and one in Detroit, Michigan, the first-ever U.S. location.
The new academy programs in Detroit and Korea will join more than a dozen other sites in Brazil, Indonesia, and Italy where participants will learn the fundamentals of coding as well as core professional competencies, design, and marketing, ensuring graduates have the full suite of skills needed to contribute to their local business communities.
“The program has empowered students around the world with app development and entrepreneurial training, many of whom have gone on to start their own businesses, create and sell apps on the App Store, and give back to their communities,” the press statement from Apple reads.
Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) will take place June 7 through 11, in an all-online format. It will feature hundreds of sessions for developers of all ages and backgrounds — including hundreds of current and former Apple Developer Academy students — to learn about the new technologies, tools, and frameworks they rely on to build innovative and platform-differentiating apps and games.