Moldable Alloy Will Make Braille Smartphone A Reality

New interface on prototype can help the blind text plus use everyday tools like maps.

Some objectives that come to mind when discussing the purpose of technology are making life easier, making information more accessible, and making society more inclusive.

Presenting the world’s first Braille smartphone: Designed by Sumit Dagar, a 2011 TED Fellow and a graduate of the National Institute of Design in India, the new touch screen smartphone is being created specifically for people who are visually impaired. Yet unnamed, the phone is the culmination of three years of work by Dagar and his team, which is currently collaborating with IIT Delhi on a prototype.

The ‘Braille smartphone’ works with the assistance of shape-memory alloy technology. Shape-memory alloy is a metal that can return to its original shape after being deformed, which allows it to expand and contract to form bumps and ridges. The screen for the phone will be made with a grid of pins that can move up and down, manipulating the alloy, creating shapes and Braille characters – returning to its original state when done.

Braille-scan

While current voice recognition operations like Siri offer considerable assistance for visually and otherwise impaired users, this new smartphone goes above and beyond. Users will be able to not only send and receive text messages with a changing Braille keypad, but also check everyday tools like maps. Most remarkably, the phone will be designed to scan other objects, including text and photos, and then convert those scans into readable Braille or other recognizable shapes.

Currently being tested at the LV Prasad Eye Institute, the phone is expected to be released by the end of 2013 (thanks in part to a grant from the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, which sped up the process). The phone is expected to cost roughly $185.

You can check out Dagar’s TED Talk on the topic below.

Sumit Dagar

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