Social Innovations: A Braille Smartphone

Even as the draft Treaty for the Blind gets watered down and seems to be heading towards a failure (due to “competing” corporate copyright interests), an Indian company Kriyate Design Solutions seems  to be on the road to making more ‘every day’ things accessible to print impaired people by introducing the world’s first Braille smartphone! The difficulties faced by the print impaired is a topic we have often visited on this blog and it’s with pleasure we bring you some good news on this front.
The phone is a haptic user interfaced device which uses a grid of pins that are raised and lowered on the touchscreen, allowing a visually disabled user to communicate with and through the device. Its features include  sending and receiving text messages, having touch based maps ‘displayed’ on the screen, scanning and converting external text to braille, and even representing externally scanned images – all through raised and lowered pins! This marks a huge step forward for those who have otherwise only had the partial option of relying on modified apps. (For a display of the braille smartphone in action watch the latter half of this video). Kriyate, which means “to do” in Sanskrit certainly looks like it will be living up to its name.
Kriyate is collaborating with IIT Delhi and LV Prasad Eye Institute Hyderabad to prototype this phone.
The phone which has been three years in the making was the brainchild of Sumit Dagar while he was a student at the National Institute of Design. In December 2012, Rolex selected him for its Young Laureate Program which has boosted his project. The project is now ready for testing.
As to why he started this project, he says:
“Technology is giving everyone superpowers, but many blind people are not able to tap into these cool new features, and the technology is making them even more disabled. So I decided to do something that could reach out to this population.”
All this would be pointless if it were not a financially viable option – and here too there seems to be little cause for concern. According to this article, the proposed price of the phone is around $185, or just about ₹10,000 which is well priced even by regular smartphone standards. With about 25% of the world’s blind population living in India, this is a very welcome initiative!
 I wish them all the best as they move forward on this project.
[“Social Innovations” is a new section on SpicyIP where we will take a few lines to focus attention on notable innovations which are development oriented or specifically directed at social causes. This can be grass root innovations, affordable innovations or innovations which meet needs of neglected or marginalized sections of society. We welcome comments on this and would appreciate input regarding any such innovations which we could highlight here ] 

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