Our daily lives are increasingly conducted through screens. Phones, televisions, computers, and monitors have become integral to the way we communicate and work. For the blind, there are all sorts of workarounds so they can interact with devices, but there’s no simple way to use them with braille. A South Korean startup, called Dot, wants to change that with the first smartwatch for the visually impaired.
Looking like a cross between an Apple Watch and a step tracker, the Dot is meant to give the blind a way to read messages they receive. Instead of having to rely on voice calls and text-to-speech software, Dot wearers can read messages in braille on their wrists from a paired smartphone. The watch can display four characters at once, using a new technology that allows the dots on its face to pop in and out to form different braille characters. The watch can translate any text—from an ebook, a text, or a webpage—into braille, and the wearer can control how quickly they want the braille characters to change. And before you ask—yes, it can tell the time.
Dot CEO Eric Ju Yoon Kim told Tech in Asia that the industry-leading braille input devices connect to computers via USB, cost thousands of dollars, and aren’t quite as portable. By comparison, the Dot will cost about $300 when it goes on sale in December.
“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,” Kim said. “Wouldn’t you rather read it yourself and hear your girlfriend’s voice saying it in your head?”
Kim also wants to install the technology that powers the watch in public places, according to Tech in Asia. The displays could update in real time, so an ATM could tell you your account balance, or a train station could have a live schedule that the blind could read.
According to the World Health Organization, there are 285 million visually impaired (and 39 million blind) people in the world. The Dot could be a boon to helping them interact with the screened world. But its success, as of yet, remains to be seen.