In 2009, South Korean design team Yanko Design created a prototype braille e-reader that set the technology world abuzz with its potential. Using paraffin wax embedded in the screen controlled by heat, text would be able to shift from page to page, much like a Kindle. Working prototypes from several design firms were manufactured, but none was widely produced due to the expense. The prototypes themselves cost over $20,000 (BBC, 2014).
In 2022, Dot Inc. developed Dot Pad, a smart braille device that allows easy display of text but also tactile representations of handwriting, sketches, maps, illustrations, images, signatures and more. Dot Pad can convert any input from a connected device into a tactile graphic instantly and with the smartphone camera, you can turn images into tactile graphics in real-time.
Refreshable Braille Displays
In 2018, the Braille Me - a fast, smooth 20-cell 6-dot braille display designed to have paper-like crispness – was invented by design brand Innovision Tech. With a Perkin-style keyboard and cursor buttons for typing, the Braille Me allows easy access to books and note-taking. Files can be accessed from an SD card by browsing, editing, and searching content using keywords and created, edited, renamed, or deleted from the device itself. Braille Me can connect to computers as well as screen readers like NVDA and Voice Over for a combination of braille and audio.
Digital Braille Books
In 1992, Sir James Dyson, a well-known English inventor and industrial designer, founded a consumer electronics company specializing in cordless and cylinder vacuum cleaners, hand-dryers, and bladeless fans. In March 2020, Dyson developed a new ventilator specifically for COVID-19 patients in just 10 days. Established in 2005, The James Dyson Award is an international design award, run by the James Dyson Foundation, that inspires, encourages, and celebrates emerging inventors' new problem-solving ideas - and also provides a platform from which to launch them.
The 2021 James Dyson Award winners, Aleksei Rezepov and Vadim Stozhik, both from Russia, developed a braille e-book that download texts which are then translated into braille, which is read via raised buttons on the screen. The book is small and lightweight, designed to fit into most backpacks (James Dyson Award, 2021).
Rezepov and Stozhik's goal was to make information accessible to people who are blind, Deafblind or have low vision, and who use braille. They note that most books don't have braille versions and may only be available in specialized libraries, and that audiobooks are not a solution for people who are Deafblind.