People with visual impairments can use mobile features like Siri to speak their commands, and they can utilize the text-to-speech functionality to send messages — but touch screens on smartphones and watches do not cater to this demographic. That is, until now.

A South Korean start-up has developed Dot, the first affordable Braille smartwatch that allows the blind to read their texts and even e-books.

"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," Dot CEO Eric Ju Yoon Kim told Tech in Asia. "Wouldn't you rather read it yourself and hear your girlfriend's voice saying it in your head?"

Dot is a wearable that has four "cells," with six actively shifting dots that rise and fall to make four letters at a time.

The smartwatch uses haptic technology to provide information in real time via touch. The user connects the smartwatch to Bluetooth 4.0, which then converts texts from apps such as iMessage into Braille letters. This means blind users can also read e-books, or utilize the device to get directions.

Dot has a battery life of 10 hours, lasting an average of five days on a single charge.

While the smartwatch market – thanks to the Apple Watch – continues to expand, this is the first option suited for the blind. According to the World Health Organization, 285 million people are living with severe visual impairments globally, with 39 million qualifying as legally blind.

Smart Braille devices are pretty pricey, costing upwards of $3,000, but this wearable is set to cost less than $300. Dot has the goal of offering a more affordable device to increase literacy among the blind. According to the start-up, 95 percent of visually impaired people cannot read, due in part to the price of Braille readers, along with the fact that only 1 percent of normal books are translated into Braille.

Dot's investors have also tested Braille screen modules at ATMs and train stations in South Korea that are updated in real-time, further working to include this demographic in the technology age.

Dot will release 10,000 Dot smartwatches this December.

Via: Popular Science

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