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Friday, August 7, 2015

Wearable Offers Mobile Books for the Blind

A new wrist device slated to debut this December is intended to help sight-impaired users read Braille versions of books and text messages while on the go.

The face of the Dot, which resembles a fitness tracker, features four sets of six raised dots. The dots lift or recede to form four Braille letters at a time. The device—which also functions as a watch, alarm, and navigation system with Bluetooth capabilities—can be used for five days before needing to be charged.

“Touchscreens are not conducive to the blind as they cannot see the shifting pixels on the smooth device,” said a Popular Science article about the Dot. “That has not only slowed down the technological literacy for the blind, but has also impaired their reading literacy, cutting them off from most information that isn’t published in print.”

The device was developed by a company based in South Korea, but most of its young design team are fairly recent graduates of U.S. universities. The company claims the Dot will retail for about $300, while Braille-enabled e-readers cost upwards of $2,000. The only other alternatives to Braille books—audio recordings and text-to-speech software—are either expensive to create or don’t always work properly.

One immediate drawback for the device is a lack of reading material. Only about 1% of published books have been converted into Braille, but the company hopes the availability of the Dot will encourage publishers to offer more titles in that format.

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