Aiming at creating Independent Access to Digital Content for the Visually Impaired (VI), a feature-packed, ergonomic & affordable refreshable Braille display called DotBook has been developed. The DotBook is developed by IIT Delhi, Kritikal Solutions Pvt Ltd., Pheonix Medical Systems Pvt. Ltd. and Saksham Trust New Delhi, supported by the Wellcome Trust.
The product will be manufactured, maintained and marketed by Kritikal Solutions, Noida while its key component, that is the 10-cell Refreshable Braille Cell modules, will be manufactured, maintained and marketed by Phoenix Medical Systems, Chennai.
The alumnus and researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi envisioned to create a laptop for visually-impaired. Pulkit Sapra, 26, from Delhi and Suman Muralikrishnan, 27, from Chennai — both students of IIT-Delhi did not opt for a job and continued researching on the topic which after five years was launched as India’s first laptop for visually-impaired, the DotBook
It took them five years to develop an interface, which was the most difficult part along with questions like how to create ‘bold’ in Braille, how to mark read or unread emails in dotted form. Such were the challenges and they chose to work closely with the community to get constant feedback. The DotBook was tested rigorously multiple times even after the launch.
Addressing issues such as social Inclusion and creating equal opportunities in education & employment, the DotBook is sure to create a positive impact for the visually impaired community, where hassle-free, independent access to the digital world has emerged as a key factor in everyday living, education and work.
The visually impaired join the dots with DotBook.
DotBook is being launched in two variants:
DotBook 20P: 20-Cell Braille Variant with Perkins Keys
DotBook 40Q: 40-Cell Braille Variant with QWERTY Keyboard
The laptop comes with 4 GB internal storage and is expandable up to 64 GB. It has built in Linux. The 20-Cell Braille Variant has Perkins Keys while the 40-Cell Braille Variant with QWERTY keyboard. The 40 cell version costs Rs 60,000 and the 20 cell version comes at a price of Rs 40,000. The laptop can be connected with mobile phones and other laptops to provide a visual display for sighted persons.
Instead of a screen, the laptop displays embossed text in Braille through a touchpad. Users get to feel everything a website has by touching the pad. Putting in maximum information in one line and yet making it user-friendly was the most difficult part for the researchers.
DotBook is built on IIT Delhi’s patented Shape Memory Alloy Technology that helps bring this cost down by almost 60%, and thus helping make this solution accessible to the millions who were previously un-catered-to. This becomes very significant as low income countries contribute to over 90% of the world’s visually impaired population.
The vision with the DotBook has been to enable visually impaired persons to compete and succeed independently in an office or educational environment and hence, the DotBook comes packed with all the applications & features that a VI User would need to independently carry out their tasks with ease. These features include Email, Calculator, Web Browser and comes with a QWERTY Keyboard.
Further, it allows integration with 3rd party apps. This special, custom development is based on multiple user trials with many of the smallest needs and preferences being taken care of based on user feedback. A good example being that - the hand-rest has also been ergonomically designed, to enable long hours of use through the day (6-8 hour work shifts).
According to Prof M. Balakrishnan, IIT Delhi, project-lead, “DotBook represents an excellent example of user oriented applied research. On one hand it is not only inter-disciplinary in nature as it brings together advanced techniques in mechanical, low power electronics, software and UI design together but is also a result of sustained efforts over four years of a multi-organizational team comprising academics, two industry partners and a user organization.”
Dipendra Manocha, Managing Director, Saksham Trust and President of the DAISY Forum of India, shared that “DotBook opens up Digital life to Braille users. It creates an eco-system that allows people who read and write in Braille, to communicate seamlessly with the rest of the world using normal print. It is so heartening to see the cost reduction that DotBook offers to this wonderful solution”.
Nishant Sharma, CTO, KritiKal Solutions added that the challenge was “To develop something that enables true independence, be it at the workplace, for social inclusion or for those seeking quality education. Being digital in today's world plays a very pivotal role and more so for the Visually Impaired, where the current infrastructure provides very little support. The DotBook, we believe can help in a big way here.”
Initial work of development of Braille cells was supported by Department of Science & Technology (DST) under its TIDE programme. The major translational funding for taking the device from Proof of Concept (POC) to market ready product came from Wellcome Trust, UK. After a series of trials with different VI users across India, and subsequent advancements in the design, the DotBook is slated to be open for bookings starting March, 2019.
Let’s celebrate the laudable feat of making India Accessible.