Braille Smartphone

Another TED talk this time.

In this one, the prototype of the first Braille Smartphone is discussed by its Indian inventor, Sumit Dagar.

He started this project as part of a bigger goal: to make modern technology accessible to everyone. He got this, and other ideas while travelling around India, where he noticed that even though the newest technology was readily available to the average city-dweller, a large portion of the population had no benefit from it whatsoever.

Dagar describes a smartphone with a screen made so that it can display buttons, braille and even pictures by elevating or lowering parts of the screen. The finished final product will even be able to convert text, viewed by the camera, to braille on screen. Some of the techniques used in the phone are closely related to the ones we use in our thesis, but with a different goal. Whereas our final product will be all about using another sense to replace vision, his will bring all the benefits of a certain technology to people without vision, without sacrificing another sense.

It serves as a reminder that, although widely considered so, vision mightnot be the most important sense. And, that it is not per se necessary to replace vision itself, if you can make everything accessible without having to use vision.



9 responses to “Braille Smartphone

  1. Alexander

    Isn’t touch also one of the five senses? So isn’t he doing more or less the same but simply with another sense?

    • koenraadvanhoutte

      Touch is of course still a sense. The difference between the use of his project versus the one of ours, however, is that we take away hearing more or less completely while using our device. In his project, touch is not more “disabled” than when you are using your smartphone: your hands are on it anyways to hold it, so they might as well be used to feelwhat’s on the screen.

      Hope that answers your question!

      • In your blog you just stated that vision is not the most important sense and that it can be replaces by nowadays technology. But which sense is than the most important one to you?
        Because if vision isn’t, it might be hearing. And if so, you project, replacing vision by sound, recovers a less important sense (vision) and in exchange it unables you to use a more important sense (hearing).
        I think you project had a lot of potential, but stating that some senses are more important than others might not help you to get a lot of support for the project. Because you said that vision is (partly) replaceble by technology and there are more important senses than vision. People might not find it a good idea to disable hearing during the use of the device to restore vision.

        • koenraadvanhoutte

          I’m afraid you’re making some wrong assumptions here. I was not trying to imply that there is a certain order of importance in senses, but rather the opposite: vision is not the most important sense because other senses can take over some of its tasks, making them more or less equivalent.

          Hearing being disabled during the use of our own device will indeed be a problem. However, hearing will not completely be taken away, and the user can choose whether to use the device or not depending on the situation. All things considered, If a person makes use of our device it means they miss their vision to some extent. Having one less sense to use puts them at a disadvantage that has to be covered by using one or more other senses. Our device might indeed not be ideal, but it will at the very least open up some more options for the user, allowing them to decide when they would prefer one sense over the other and consequentially being able to use it.

  2. Have you seen this article?
    It gives a better practical answer to how this may be implemented. If this were already developed and on the shelves, would you employ this in your thesis implementation? If yes, how?

    • koenraadvanhoutte

      Very interesting! I could not find whether this technology is already used in mr. Dagar’s Braille Smartphone or that he uses something else, but I can indeed think of some applications using it in things like our thesis though.

      Our thesis in its current form won’t easily allow implementation of it, since the entire thing is meant to convert video to audio, and we don’t think of a real device just yet. If that were the case, this could be used in some kind of interface, but as it stands now, that is not yet the case.
      However, if we were to change the medium with which the user “sees” from hearing to touch, more possibilities open up. I’m thinking along the lines of having a “screen” using this refreshable Braille display technology, but to display shapes and lines instead of braille info. This way, the corners and outlines of the room the user is in could be portrayed. The screen could be attached to the users forehead, perhaps camouflaged as a hat, to continuously sense the environment. It would be like a screen that you “see” with your touchign sense.
      I do not actually know if the forehead would be sensitive enough for this, or if your brain can process al this information, or if this could be even expanded to a piece of headwear that covers your entire head to give you 360° “sight”, but as an idea, I think we could definitely use it.

  3. Pingback: Braille e-book | Replacing Vision

  4. Pingback: Tactile surfaces | Replacing Vision

  5. I think this is a great concept that really could be beneficial for the blind people. Current smartphones like iphone have an function that they speak out everything you touch with your finger, so even blind people could use them. But I think that this concept is better because there is a better interaction between the people and the phone.

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