World Sight Day: Mumbai innovators create reading device for the blind

Oct 10, 2018, 08:20 IST | Hemal Ashar

Mumbai award winning duo talks about BrailleMe, a device they have created to assist literacy and leisure reading for the blind on World Sight Day today

World Sight Day: Mumbai innovators create reading device for the blind
Surabhi (left) talks about BrailleMe as blind student Prathamesh Bendre uses the device. Pic/Nimesh Dave

Two young Mumbai innovators, Surabhi Srivastava and Shyam Shah, who work out of the IIT campus in Powai, are heartened at the response to their invention BrailleMe, a smart Braille display, priced at approximately Rs 25,000, which enables a blind person to read books and edit documents. BrailleMe converts text to Braille and Braille to text.

Surabhi explained how BrailleMe worked. "If a blind person wants to read a book, like perhaps Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist and it is not available in Braille, but if it is available in soft copy, one can take that on to the SD card and the BrailleMe’s software auto converts it into Braille using the Braille code. BrailleMe enables a blind person to read books, documents, papers access computers or smart phones in Braille."

No writers
Shyam said BrailleMe eliminates the need for writers for blind students giving examinations. He explained, "Today, there is the need for writers because even if the student can write in Braille, the teacher assessing the paper will not know Braille. Plus, the question paper is provided in hard copy. In case of a blind student giving the exam using BrailleMe, if the question paper is made available in soft copy, the student can read the questions and type the answers in Braille. After submitting the SD card, when the examiner reads the same file on the computer, he/she will be able to read the file as ‘sighted’ text, because BrailleMe converts Braille to Text. Just by making the same question paper available in soft copy, the visually impaired students can write exams without a writer."

Poetry live
The big plus point for BrailleMe is that the Braille script is mainly six dots, a full book in Braille maybe like the Oxford dictionary, would take up a lot of space, an entire cupboard maybe! So, it is very cumbersome to store Braille books. Prathamesh Bendre, who uses the device and writes poetry himself, said, "With BrailleMe I could savour the lines of poet, Harivanshrai Bachchan."

Both Shyam and Surabhi demonstrate how light their device is, it weighs 600g and can be ferried around in a small bag. On World Sight Day, which falls today, October 11, Shyam and Surabhi co-founders of Innovision, their company which was started for building the next generation of ‘assistive’ technology, "BrailleMe is just one step towards developing technologies which can catalyze social change. Here, with BrailleMe it is ‘Literacy amongst the Visually Impaired (VI)’ which is being catalysed, finished Shyam and Surabhi, whose invention BrailleMe was awarded the Touch of Genius Prize by the National Braille Press, USA in March this year. This prize, given in San Diego was for the most innovative product for the Visually Impaired. The Touch of Genius Prize is awarded every year to one groundbreaking innovation globally.

Rs 25k
Approximate price of the BrailleMe device

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