Smart devices are pretty amazing, but those glossy, smooth touch screens don’t provide much tactile feedback for those who are visually impaired. Accessibility features on phones have helped the situation but not solved them and most smart watches have, at best, very limited accessibility features. The visually impaired have largely been left behind in the digital revolution due to real-time digital text. Whether it is information on an ATMs touch screen or a text from a family member, if you are visually impaired your best option has been to have the device read the screen to you. Active Braille technology, which displays changing Braille in real time, does exist but up until now has cost thousands of dollars. Active Braille not only allows for a much more personal and intimate experience than having a computerized voice read things out loud, but also allows electronic books to be displayed in Braille (only about 1% of books are printed in Braille). Unfortunately the price has stalled adaption of the technology and, as a result, literacy is a becoming a serious issue among the blind.
Dot is aiming to disrupt the active Braille market with their $300 smartwatch. The bluetooth device can display four letters at a time at up to 100 letters per second. Using voice commands, users can trigger text from applications (such as texts or an e-book app) to be displayed on Dot. The device has 4 sets of six “dots” that can raise and lower on demand to display characters. The wristband device also features a 5 day battery life. If all goes according to plan, the life-changing Dot smartwatch will go on sale by the end of the year. The South Korea based company has just completed the first round of seed funding, raising $600,000 and is aiming for $1 million in their second round. Further down the road, Dot is aiming to bring the technology to the public sector where is can be integrated into things such as ticket machines and ATMs.