Highlights of 2013: Australian made apps

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Monday, 9 December 2013 09:34am

Australia has made a huge contribution to the world of assistive apps this year. As part of our Highlights series, we look back at just a few.


In January, Media Access Australia reported that a new screen magnifier for Microsoft Windows had been released. Glassbrick is a free magnifier made by Brisbane-based mobile game studio Halfbrick.  The software is lightweight so that it works with heavier programs such as games without slowing the computer down.

After being unable to find a magnifier that suited his needs, 27-year-old Sierra Asher decided he would make his own. His colleagues at Halfbrick came on board and gave their time to the project.

“My main goal in designing Glassbrick was to make learning at schools more accessible because I know how hard it was for me,” said Asher.


PointFinder, developed by the Perth-based picoSpace, is a navigation app which helps people who are blind or vision impaired find their way between landmarks.

The Android app allows users to save a ‘point of interest’ such as a letterbox, bus stop or office. The ‘audio compass’ indicates if a user is getting closer or further away from a point of interest. According to the PointFinder app description on Google Play, the compass provides a "continuous sound effect whose pitch gets lower as the user turns to face the point of interest".

Pointfinder can be purchased from Google Play for $1. With picoSpace hard at work on similar apps, 2014 will be another big year.


A team of researchers at the University of New South Wales and industrial designer Euan Ramsay-Steward are developing technology to assist people who are blind or vision impaired navigate indoor environments such as shopping centres and museums.

Simplified Information Mobility and Orientation (SIMO) uses wifi technology to track a person’s position and provide navigation.

"The biggest problem with a blind or vision impaired person is that without having that knowledge of where they are, they won't explore. There's very few that will explore for themselves. What we're trying to do is give them a little mate on their shoulder and that's called SIMO,” said Ramsey-Stewart in an interview with Media Access Australia.

SIMO will release its first app in the coming months.


It would be remiss of us to talk about Australian-made assistive technology without mentioning Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA), the world’s leading free open source screen reader. The tool, first developed by Michael Curran and James Teh in 2006, was given a number of major updates in 2013, with added features such as support for long description in web browsers, basic PowerPoint support and compatibility with braille devices.

While NVDA is free to download, its developers rely on donations to improve the product and provide technical support to users. Last week the British Computer Association of the Blind announced that it would donate 25 per cent of the purchase price of its PocketPC to NVDA.

Listen to our editor talk about these apps on the Media Access News podcast (transcript included).

More highlights of 2013:

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