The voice-enabled FriendlyVox portal is a solution providing access to information and communication services without the need to use sight. FriendlyVox runs in a cloud, which means that all user data and settings are stored on the server and the users can access their data after logging in virtually anytime and anywhere. FriendlyVox can thus be used by blind persons on the go allowing them to read their e-mails or read news sites even when using a computer other than their own. Running FriendlyVox on another computer is a fairly trivial matter.
FriendlyVox is also updated to new versions automatically. No user action is required - new versions are installed automatically each time you start your Internet browser.
FriendlyVox reads out all necessary information for the user, which means it can be used on a standard non-voice-enabled computer or laptop. The only requirement is to have the Google Chrome browser installed on the computer. A simple modification of computer settings will than ensure that the voice-enabled environment provided by FriendlyVox can be activated by a single keystroke.
A general principle applies that FriendlyVox can be controlled using a small set of keyboard keys. This means that most of the functions other than text editing can be activated by the user by pressing a very small number of keys. This can be particularly useful in situations where a blind user uses a keyboard with an unfamiliar layout. It eliminates the need to learn the positions of all necessary keys. The main thing that the user needs to know is the location of the F1, F2, and F3 function keys, of the Enter and ESC keys, and the position of the up/down/right/left arrow keys.
F1 -context-sensitive help
Ctrl+F1 - Where I Am function. This keyboard shortcut can be used to identify the currently active task.
F2 - calls up the main menu, from which the main control commands can be selected.
F3 - context menu containing commands to control the currently running service. For example, when using e-mail, functions for creating a new message, navigating to the sent mail folder and so on are available here.
Up/down arrows - basic navigation through a list of items. The list may consist of individual menu items, messages in the message folder, links in the search results list returned by services such as YouTube, Wikipedia, etc.
Enter - is used to confirm a selected item
ESC - is typically used to move one level up in a hierarchical list of menu items or to cancel a selection.
Ctrl - is used to pause or continue automatic reading
Ctrl+Shift+0 - returns the user back to FriendlyVox, this keyboard shortcut is intended for situations where the user accidentally switches to another windows application and gets out of the FriendlyVox environment. This command can be used only if Google Chrome is running.
Ctrl+Shift+B - puts up/down the FriendlyVox roller blind. The roller blind allows the user to simulate the mode without the use of the screen for sighted users. Some FriendlyVox features may be available only when the roller blind is pulled down.
Ctrl +/- - magnifying glass, zooms the screen in/out
FriendlyVox can be used in two modes, in a free mode or in a registered mode requiring user registration and login. In the mode for registered users, FriendlyVox provides a wider range of services with greater user comfort, the free mode is thus intended mainly for showcasing the portal's basic features.
Start by pressing F2 - a high-contrast menu opens offering the following options:
- Function of service
The Communication menu currently contains a single item - E-mail - which is available only to logged-in users. By default, it provides access to a Gmail account from Google. If the users want to use another e-mail provider, they can set up an alternate e-mail box in FriendlyVox/User Profile/E-mail Account.
The user can than read, reply to or forward incoming messages, compose new e-mails or delete any unwanted messages. FriendlyVox system can read most of following text document formats without problems: pdf, doc, docx, txt. The system can also play basic multimedia attachments like waw, mp3 and mp4. The mailbox is fully integrated with Google account contacts, even if the user uses a mailbox other than Gmail. Really interesting function of FriendyVox system is possibility to import contacts in vCard format. Just send the email to your own email address with a business card in vCard format in attachment and than press enter key on attachment detail to save the business card into your contacts. When composing a new message, the user can enter only a part of a recipient’s name or e-mail address and the “whisper” (autocomplete) function automatically offers a list of matching contacts from which the user can choose. The recipient field is used to enter a single e-mail address. Another recipient field is automatically created after completing the previous field to allow adding multiple recipients.
The Media menu contains three items - News, Radios and Youtube.
News provides access to news web portals in various languages. By default a list of news sites corresponding to the user's country is offered. After selecting an item corresponding to the desired news site, the corresponding news portal with a list of articles is opened. When accessing any of the featured new portals, it it possible to browse not only the portal's homepage, but also its individual sections. All information - article and section headings as well as the texts of the articles - is read out in an easy to understand synthesized voice. Other news sites in other languages are available upon invoking the context menu by pressing F3 under the All News Portals menu item. It is also possible to activate the Search function and look up a list of articles containing the desired keyword.
In the Czech instance of FriendlyVox, the item News enable users to read articles from printed newspapers.
Radios provides access to hundreds of radio stations from around the world. Unregistered users are offered a list of radio stations for their country only. The arrow keys can be used to navigate the list of stations and the desired station starts playing immediately upon selecting the desired entry. All available radio stations can be browsed by invoking the context menu (F3) and selecting All Stations. Registered users can manage a list of favourite stations to which they can add stations of their choice using the Add to Favourites function (by invoking the context menu or by using the Alt+P keyboard shortcut).
Youtubeprovides voice-enabled access to the largest global video sharing service. When started, the service immediately offers a form for entering a key search phrase. The search can be activated by pressing Enter, which returns a list of search results that can be navigated using the arrow keys and selected by pressing Enter. The input search box also features the autocomplete function that offers a list of matching texts to facilitate searching. Video playback can be comfortably controlled by pressing Enter to pause or continue playback and the Alt+left/right arrow can be used to fast-forward/rewind. The F3 context menu also includes the Similar Videos function, which, when started, offers a list of videos that are somehow related to the selected video.
The Office menu offers the Contacts, Notes, and Translator services.
Contacts allow you to manage contacts which can be used in e-mail communication. The contacts are stored in your Google account, which ensures their automatic synchronization with "smart" Android devices. This allows you to efficiently manage your phone contacts via FriendlyVox.
Notesenables you to manage simple text documents that do not require rich text formatting. When started, the service offers a list of notes to read or edit. If the list is empty, you can use the F3 context function to create a New Note (shortcut Alt+N). Data are stored as text files in the FriendlyVox/Notes folder on the Google Drive associated with the registered Google account. Notes are integrated with the e-mail and contact services, which allows you to send a note to a selected e-mail address as e-mail body or e-mail attachment.
Translatorprovides access to the Google Translate service, which allows you to translate between a large number of the world's languages. When started, the service offers the Text to Translate field where you can enter a phrase to be translated. You can enter single words or whole sentences. Pressing Enter will translate the text and read out the translation. The source and target languages can be selected using the F3 context menu and choosing Select the Source Language (Alt+P) or Select the Target Language (Alt+L). The translation can be spelled or Information About Entered Expression can be read out with the Expression Definition, Synonyms and Examples options available. Another interesting feature is Information About Translated Expression, where you can find alternative translations and their relevance.
The Information menu provides access to Wikipedia.
The Wikipedia service provides access to the Wikipedia global online encyclopaedia. When started, the service offers a search field to enter a desired phrase. Again, it is assisted with a voice-enabled autocomplete feature, which can make searching easier. The search function is activated by pressing the Enter key. A list of articles matching the search criteria is offered, which can be navigated using the arrow keys. Pressing Enter will open the selected article. The article is automatically read out and the user can navigate through the sentences using the arrow keys. Wikipedia articles contain lots of links to other articles; these links are identified by an audible signal and you can immediately go to the linked article by pressing Enter. There is also the Switch to a No Link Reading Mode function (Ctrl+Shift+L) available, which makes it possible to deactivate sound alerts to links. It is possible to have an article read out in another language by selecting the Article in Another Language (ALT+L) function; after selecting the desired language, the article opens in another language, which may currently be Czech, Slovak, English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese.
Entertainment offers the Memory games and MysteryMansion. The menu also newly offers English version of horror text game called Anchorhead.
Functions of service (fast select via F3) becomes relevant only after a selected service is started. It contains functions and usable shortcuts related to each specific service - how to navigate through form fields, texts, and menus.
Control (fast select via F8) contains the Voices and Sounds submenu and it also provides access to items which help the users to find out their current position within FriendlyVox and provide time information and a comprehensive list of keyboard shortcuts. We can also disable FriendlyVox on websites where we do not want to use the FriendlyVox services. By using the Roller Blind function, we can “put up” the black screen and see a standard voice-enabled website.
The Voices and Sounds submenu also provides information about the current voice or allows to change it. The language of voice synthesis settings can be changed - available languages include Czech, Slovak, English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. Also speech parameters can be set. In section Sounds you can set or turn off the volume of sounds and background music. If you are logged in your setting is saved into your user profile and these are kept till your next log in. All the functions are accessible either from the individual menus or by using hotkeys the combinations of which are also shown and read out in the menus.
The FriendlyVox menu offers the Log In, Ask Support and About the Portal items. Log In allows a user who is not logged in to log in to or sign up for FriendlyVox using a Google account. In the input fields, you will be asked to enter the username and password for your Google account. If you do not have a Google account, just press Insert (or find the option in the F3 menu) to activate a voice-enabled registration process to create a Google account and the FriendlyVox registration process will be subsequently completed. After the completion of registration, the user is prompted to enter an alternate e-mail address. FriendlyVox allows you to use an e-mail account other than that associated with a Google account. To complete registration it is sufficient to enter a username and a password for an e-mail account. The pre-condition is that the entered e-mail account supports IMAP access.
Ask Support allows all users to send a message to the support staff and to ask for assistance or to report any problematic behaviour of FriendlyVox.
A logged-in user may access the User Profile menu, which has three items – Registration Information, E-mail Account and Contacts. These items can be used to change the data entered during the registration process and to change the account under which the user is registered, or to change the password for this account or the alternate e-mail account.