A six-woman team from MIT’s engineering undergraduates is trying to make reading easy for visually challenged people. They have designed a prototype that translates words in a book or on a paper, into Braille. Their team, called Team Tactile, consists of Chen Wang, Chandani Doshi, Grace Li, Jessica Shi, Charlene Xia and Tania Yu.

Chen Wang, Chandani Doshi, Grace Li, Jessica Shi, Charlene Xia and Tania Yu from Team Tactile MIT // Pic credits: smithsonianmag.com

Team Tactile started its journey at MakeMIT’s hackathon — where students had to spend 15 hours coding, designing, constructing, testing and debugging their projects. They wanted to make a device that would help Americans who are legally blind. Their first prototype didn’t look too pretty — it was bulky with wires sticking out — but it worked! It translated words into Braille and therefore, they won the hackathon.

After their win, they started developing more prototypes, to make their product faster and more compact. Team Tactile were one of the nine teams this year to win the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize which consists of a $10,000 prize, which they are putting back into their project to continue to improve it.

The current prototype is much smaller, the size of a candy bar. It has a built-in camera that captures the words and translates each character into Braille, which triggers the mechanical system to raise or lower the pins on top. It can display six characters at a time in Braille.

One of the team members, Chandani Doshi, talks about their plans to improve the prototype, “Currently the camera only takes a picture of its field of view. We are aiming to make the device similar to a handheld scanner that allows the user to scan the entire page in one go.”

Although this is not the first prototype to translate words to Braille, other devices in the market come at a very high cost — some of them as high as $2500. Team Tactile hopes to sell their product for a maximum price of $200, so that it is affordable to a larger section of society. They hope to get their product in the market in about two years, and they are working hard to make it a reality.

This will not only help visually challenged people in America, but once it is shipped worldwide, it can solve a very large problem. It will give blind people the joy of reading anything. It truly is a useful idea, and we hope that they develop their product soon.

Kudos to Team Tactile!

Pic credits: smithsonianmag.com

Also read: Miranda House Installs Digital Signages For The Visually Challenged