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IIT-Delhi launches Braille laptop DotBook, an India first

March 1, 2019

The Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi (IIT-D) does it again. After the Smart Cane and Smart Board, it has launched another device that aims to empower and enable people who are blind and low vision. This one is called DotBook.

DotBook is a Braille laptop, India's first one and has been developed by IIT-D in partnership with KritiKal Solutions Pvt Ltd., Pheonix Medical Systems Pvt. Ltd. and Saksham Trust and supported by Wellcome Trust.

DotBook is slated to be open for bookings starting this month and will come in two variants. DotBook 20P is a 20-Cell Braille variant with Perkins Keys and DotBook 40Q, which is a 40-Cell Braille Variant with QWERTY keyboard. Product deliveries will start later this year.

This is welcome news as the 40-cell refreshable Braille devices that are currently in the market cost on an average US$ 2,500, putting them out of reach for users in low income countries like India.

What it therefore promises is hassle-free, independent and affordable access to the visually impaired community in India when it comes to daily living, education and employment. Making it, in the words of Shakuntala D. Gamlin, Secretary, Department of Empowerment of People with Disabilities, and chief guest at the launch, "a great set of invention, that will empower visually impaired people".

Affordable, Accessible

What explains the cost factor? DotBook is built on IIT-D's patented Shape Memory Alloy Technology and this helps reduce the cost by nearly 60%, making it accessible to many more people, including those who were not catered to earlier. This is crucial given that 80% of the world's usually impaired population is in low income countries.

DotBook has features like email, calculator, web browser and a QWERTY keyboard with applications that would enable a visually impaired person to do their daily tasks with ease.

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. - Professor M. Balakrishnan, Project Head IIT Delhi

DotBook also allows integration with third party apps. This is a customized developed based on many user trials taking into account several needs and preferences voiced by users. The hand-rest is also designed such that it enables long periods of use during the day.

"DotBook opens up digital life to Braille users, creating an eco-system that allows people who read and write in Braille", said Dipendra Manocha, Managing Director, Saksham Trust and President, DAISY Forum of India. "It is heartening to see the cost reduction that DotBook offers to this wonderful solution".

For Nishant Sharma of KritiKal Solutions, the challenge was to develop a product that enabled independence in the full sense, "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."

DotBook, which has taken five years to develop, will come to users after multiple trials with users across India. Researchers say it will benefit over one crore people and the news of the launch has been greeted with much excitement, with many hoping this will impact the literacy rates in India in a significant way.



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