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article imageGadget breakthrough: Braille smartphone for the blind

By Eko Armunanto     May 1, 2013 in Technology
For this prototype, a touchscreen transforms images and text into touchable patterns, enabling users to interpret facial expressions, maps, and graphics.
Using the newly-invented smartphone, blind users can touch the real-time image of their friend's face and follow that person's facial expressions during video chat. An interaction designer who makes sci-fi short-films has spent the past three years developing what he says is the world's first Braille-enabled smartphone. He said that if testing goes well, the phones could hit stores by the end of this year.
Forbes said an India-based startup Kriyate has created Braille-enabled smartphone. The product’s innovator, Sumit Dagar, developed the new phone with the help of IIT-Delhi and LV Prasad Eye Institute, in Hyderabad.
“This phone has repressible Braille display. The grid has pins which go up and down, so that visually impaired user can touch them and read the info,” explained Dagar.
The phone, which has yet to be officially named, has a screen comprised of a grid of pins, which move up and down to form into Braille shapes and characters whenever an SMS message or email is received. It uses what's called Shape Memory Alloy technology, so as each pin expands, it remembers and contracts back to its original flat shape. According to the India Times, a prototype is ready for testing.
Dagar was the recipient of a $53,000 award in 2012 through the Rolex Award for Enterprise, which recognizes and rewards ideas that have wide impact in applied technology, cultural heritage, environment, exploration and discovery, and science and health. That money has gone towards developing phone prototypes and designing the final version of the product.
Braille smartphone, not just Braille-enabled, is however not a new concept. Last year, the concept was brought into an application design called DrawBraille, which was completely in Braille and even the touch screen has been modified to provide an input device that reflects the Braille system – then called Braille Touch. The DrawBraille smartphone concept was created by Shikun Sun and uses tracking paths that can be input on the smartphone touch screen, to initiate functions and modes. Unfortunately due to the DrawBraille smartphone being just a concept it hasn’t been released as yet.
According to the World Health Organization, 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 have low vision – take a moment to reflect on how not everyone is experiencing the tablet and mobile reality the same way.
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