Couple weeks ago, I wrote about EnChroma glasses for colour-blind individuals. This week I bring you the DOT Watch. This is a braille smart-watch for the visually challenged, designed by a South Korean startup.

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The DOT smart-watch specs

Before analyzing the watch, lets take a look at how Braille works. If you’ve ever had the chance to touch and feel Braille script, you’ll know the letters/numerals do not translate to the scripts we are used to. That is because existing scripts are difficult to trace and decipher. Louis Braille designed the Braille script in the late 19th century, based off of Charles Barbier night writing script. The alphabet of the Braille script are basically variations on a 6×6 dot matrix structure. The Braille script has now been extended and fully developed for several languages, as well as math and music.

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The Braille Alphabet

Smart watches have become an integral part of our lives and how! We now monitor our health, home, property, children, bills, etc on smart devices. The digitization and integration of all our services into a single user interface (Internet of things) has only made it easier. I can work from anywhere in the world because of this technical revolution! The smart-watch market has exploded over the past few years. In fact, reports show that smart-watch sales have increased an astronomical 457 percent in the last year alone. So you can imagine the impact of a braille smart-watch in the lives of blind individuals.

Dot, a South Korean startup, designed the active Braille smartwatch that’s a low-cost education and communication tool for the blind. With it, Dot hopes to return equal information access to a demographic that has been left behind in the age of real-time digital text.  Over the past two decades, blind people have not had the right to use the products and spaces that were supposedly meant for everyone, and the slow innovation has long been limiting many opportunities in their lives. The Dot smart-watch comes at a much pertinent time with features that enable their customers to chime in with the current technologically advanced world.

The DOT braille smart-watch project won the Grand LIA for Design at the 2016 London International Awards. DOT is connected to the smartphone via Bluetooth and can receive any information in text-form, from any app or service. DOT makes communication easy and private, provides fast access to information anywhere, makes navigation and transport more convenient and safe, enables efficient, independent and joyful education, improves work performance and increases job opportunities, supports leisure and sports activities. The best part however: through the open DOT API, anyone can develop apps or services for DOT! Existing ones can be easily adapted. Apps for Braille education, social networking, navigation, newsfeed, weather and many more are already being developed.

The World Health Organization estimates that there are 285 million people with severe visual impairment around the world, of whom 39 million are completely blind. Among them, literacy is a serious issue because access to Braille education and materials is limited. DOT’s main goal in development was to increase affordability and accessibility. The development of their own innovative Active Braille Technology made this possible. It reduces size and production cost by more than ten times, increases speed and keeps energy consumption low. The device is based on haptic technology, which provides feedback or information in real time through touch. By linking to any Bluetooth device, the Dot smart-watch can pull text from applications like iMessage using voice commands.

In an attempt for “public Braille,” the company has installed modules at ATMs and in train stations. Like the smart-watch, these modules can be programmed to display information updated in real time, such as account balance information or a subway schedule. Very interestingly, the DOT smart-watch is the entry device into the assistive technology market. As a wearable, DOT is still without competition! Current industry leaders produce hardware in the form of keyboards with active Braille cells that connect to computers via USB, which are extremely expensive.

The DOT braille smart-watch is already availabale in the US, Canada, UK, Japan, Korea, France and will now venture into Kenya and the Middle East.