Wearable Tech to Transform Literacy for the Blind

September 15, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

Dot | Braille Smart Watch
Photo credit: Dot. Image has been cropped.

Dot, a wearable tech company, designed the first-ever Braille smartwatch in hopes of bringing back literacy to the visually impaired community.

The era of touchscreen technology brought about a new wave of limitations for the blind, but Dot, the first Braille smartwatch, plans to fix the problem. Dot functions with shifting cells of dots, enabling the blind to read messages, texts, and books.

Nowadays, many books and articles are inaccessible to the blind community because they’re only published online. Braille e-readers offer a solution, but it’s an extremely costly and bulky solution. Only one percent of books are translated to Braille and the e-reader device costs over $2,000 USD. Because of these barriers, only 5 percent of the 285 million visually impaired can read!

Dot hopes to change that. The Braille smartwatch provides an affordable alternative at just under $300 USD.

Dot can link up to any Bluetooth device and pull text from applications like iMessage. This will give users the opportunity for a much more personal text experience than the existing method, Siri’s read back feature. Dot co-founder and CEO Eric Ju Yoon Kim tells Tech in Asia, “Until now, if you got a message on iOS from your girlfriend, for example, you had to listen to Siri read it to you in that voice, which is impersonal. Wouldn’t you rather read it yourself and hear your girlfriend’s voice saying it in your head?”

Dot also features an alarm, navigation, and Bluetooth 4.0. The sleek design resembles something like a Fitbit and yields a battery life of 10 hours.

As the first wearable technology device for the blind, Dot has no competition. However, the company has no intention to stop at wearable tech — it’s pushing for “public Braille.” The company hopes to revolutionize everyday life activities for the blind, from visits to the ATM or public transportation.

Right now, ATMs currently spell out “This is an ATM,” in Braille. Not very helpful when ATMs function with moving pixels on a touchscreen. Dot hopes to apply its shifting cells of dots to display information updated in real time at ATMs or ticket machines. The blind would be able to check bank account balances or subway schedules, everyday conveniences the non-blind community takes for granted.

With its innovative wearable tech and goal to expand “public Braille” globally, Dot has the potential to revolutionize the lifestyles of people who are blind in a number of ways. But most importantly, the company hopes to bring literacy back to the visually impaired.

“90 percent of blind people become blind after birth, and there’s nothing for them right now – they lose their access to information so suddenly,” explains Kim. “Dot can be their lifeline, so they can learn Braille and access everyday information through their fingers, which is the goal of Braille literacy.”

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