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Yesterday, researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, along with KritiKal Solutions Pvt Ltd., Pheonix Medical Systems Pvt. Ltd. and Saksham Trust New Delhi,  unveiled ‘DotBook’ – a
Refreshable Braille display aiming at creating independent access to digital content for the visually impaired.

Refreshable Braille Display is a peripheral device that allows blind or visually impaired people to interact with a computer. A braille display can show up to 80 characters from the screen and is refreshable — that is, it changes continuously as the user moves the cursor around on the screen, using either the command keys, cursor routing keys, or Windows and screen reader commands. 

Currently, a 40 cell Refreshable Braille Devices costs on an average US $2500, making them expensive for users even in high-income countries while being completely unaffordable for those in other countries like India. 

IIT Delhi’s patented Shape Memory Alloy Technology helped in
bringing this cost down by almost 60% and to develop DotBook 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. 

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Touted as “India’s first Braille Laptop”, DotBook will help address issues such as social inclusion and creating equal opportunities for the visually impaired in education and employment.

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The initial development work 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 this year and product deliveries would start later this year.

The features of DotBook include email, calculator, web browser and like and other laptop it comes with a QWERTY keyboard.

Additionally, it allows integration with 3rd party apps. DotBook is result of special custom development which 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).

The DotBook will be manufactured, maintained and marketed by
Noida-based Kritikal Solutions while its key component, that is the 10-cell Refreshable Braille Cell modules, will be manufactured, maintained and marketed by Phoenix Medical Systems, Chennai.

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

M. Balakrishnan, Professor at IIT-Delhi who led the project said, “DotBook represents an excellent example of user-oriented applied research. It is not only inter-disciplinary in nature as it brings together advanced techniques in mechanical, low-power electronics, software and UI design together, is also a result of sustained efforts over the four years of a multi-organisational team comprising academics, two industry partners and a user organisation.” The product will be manufactured, maintained and marketed by a Noida-based company while its key component, that is the 10-cell refreshable Braille cell modules, will be manufactured, maintained and marketed by a company based in Chennai.

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