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Monday, September 22, 2014 - 11:19pm

World's first Braille smartphone being developed

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POSTED: Friday, April 26, 2013 - 6:56pm

UPDATED: Saturday, April 27, 2013 - 3:14pm

Thanks to the smartphone, the world today is at your fingertips. With features that let you deposit checks from home, shop online, and voice-to-text, you can do almost anything on a smartphone. For all its advantages, though, smartphones can fall short of helping the visually impaired, but that may soon change.

The visually impaired have primarily relied on the voice commands, beeps, and vibrations of their smartphones to be able to use them. But the blind could soon read their smartphones through touch. The world's first braille smartphone is being developed in India.

Aziz Afravi is visually impaired and has faced his fair share of obstacles. But he hasn't let that stop him from trying to live a normal life.

Afravi is a vocational rehabilitation counselor. His job includes sending emails and text messages, or making phone calls -- things he does using the voice commands on his computer and smart phone.

He says this technology has allowed him to remain competitive in the job market, so when we told him about a new Braille smartphone being developed in India, he was all ears.

"That would be incredible, that would be interesting," said Afravi.

Sumit Dagar, a young tech innovator from India, has developed a phone with a screen made up of a grid of Braille pins, that move up and down to form into Braille shapes and characters whenever a text or an email is received. The user can read through touch.

The phone also lets users scan a document written on regular paper, and converts the text into Braille on the phone.

"Instead of listening to it, and interfering with everybody else, bothering them to listen to my paper that I have scanned, I can read it quietly," said Afravi.

What's even more exciting is taking a picture with the Braille phone that captures the image and converts it into highlights on the screen so the user can see the image by feeling the outlines of the photograph.

"I hope this electronic format will come up soon. I'm sure there will be a lot of vision impaired and blind people will be able to use it, and they will appreciate it," said Afravi.

The new Braille smartphone is expected to hit the market by the end of this year, and will cost about $185.

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