Indian firm launching Braille smartphone for blind people

April 25, 2013

Indian firm launching Braille smartphone for blind peoplePlenty of smartphones and other mobile devices have text-to-speech tools to make them more useful for deaf people. Now an Indian firm is planning a 2014 release for a phone that uses Braille for blind people.

The handset will not have a traditional screen, but rather a grid full of metal pins that can be raised or lowered to form shapes. It works in a similar way to the range of toys known as Pin Art or Pinscreen among other brand name. However, with the phone it appears that the pins won’t be physically “pushed up”: instead an electrical charge will cause them to expand or contract.

The pins will work in two ways. Firstly they’ll use Braille lettering to display text. Secondly, they’ll be used to generate tactile representations of images, meaning users can “feel” photographs.

The phone will also use haptic feedback, meaning it either beeps or vibrates when you press a “button”, thus confirming it has received a command.

A mobile phone using Braille already exists, though it’s effectively a featurephone and the Braille is used only on a fixed numberpad. This would be the first phone to actively generate Braille text.

The new device is the work of Kriyate, a start-up company backed by the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmebadad. Kriyate founder Sumit Dagar has previously won funding from an enterprise award scheme after developing a prototype.

The target price is 10,000 rupees, which is the equivalent of around $184 dollars. That may be a little expensive for the Indian market, though Dagar is looking to launch in partnership with existing mobile companies.

There’s certainly a large potential market, with World Health Organization figures estimating 39 million blind people worldwide and 285 million with visual impairments. However, in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States at least, only a few percent of blind people can read Braille.

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