Shubham Banerjee, a seventh grader from California recently invented a low price braille printer. Currently, most braille printers on the market are around $2,000, which makes it difficult for blind children to get an education. Banerjee’s device costs just $355, because it is constructed with low cost materials, including Legos.
To distribute his invention, Banerjee has founded the company Braigo, which hopes to develop “Humanely Optimized” technologies that can solve life’s problems in an innovative way.
“I just asked a simple question, ‘how do blind people read?’ They said, ‘go Google it.’ And I found out that braille printers cost $2,000 onwards,” Banjeree explained.
Banjeree told CBS that his parents were shocked and impressed when they first learned of his invention.
“My mom, I don’t want to be mean, but she was like, ‘No, you can’t do it, go to bed, go to bed, but after I was done with it … my mom was like, ‘Oh my god! I can’t believe you did that!’ She was pretty shocked herself,” Banjeree said.
Below you can read the description that Banjeree submitted for his science fair application:
“The challenges with assistive technologies currently available are either too expensive or difficult to obtain for normal people without government or non-profit sponsorships. According to WHO reports, there are estimated 285 million visually impaired people worldwide and 90% of them live in developing countries. At this moment the cost of a braille printer is more than $2000 for a basic version. Thus many millions of people across the world have limited access. If we could reduce the cost to below $500, we could already reduce the cost by 75%. To give access to easily assemble and build a braille printer for the masses, the basic ability of DO-IT-YOURSELF (D-I-Y) is key.
The kit should be readily available at stores or procured online from reputable websites to make the process easy for adoption. Most printers operate in X (to move the print head) -Y (to push the paper) – Z (to print or not to print) co-ordinates. The printer has to be compact and self-explanatory. Engineering as a discipline is the application of scientific, economic, social, and practical knowledge in order to design, build, maintain, and improve structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes.
In this experiment, I relied on my love of LEGO and readily available Mindstorms EV3 robotics kit to build a D-I-Y Braille printer and program the device to print in Braille. I worked with a constraint that all parts should be from one kit and maybe some low cost readily available add-ons to make such a printer. After studying the Braille language; I understood that a visually impaired individual feels through his/her fingers the bumps on a paper through a combination of 6 dots. If we could make a printer that prints (by making holes in a paper) as a mirror image of the letter and when flipping the page we should be able to translate letters into BRAILLE. I used rapid prototyping concepts where I tried to build models and programing it to see if I am able to get the desired results. I had to build and break 7 different models before settling on a final one that was able to print the six dots in a desired sequence according to the Braille standards. After which, I programmed the letters A-Z. I used a normal calculator paper to provide the proof of concept.
I have validated my version 1.0 of BRAIGO and potential small updates in software necessary to perfect for the next version 2.0 at Santa Clara Valley Blind Center based in San Jose and also with Hoby Wedler at his laboratory in UC Davis. I would say that the first prototype of the proof of concept has been successful and me providing the building instructions and software as open source will provide a low cost alternative solution to the visually impaired community. I achieved a 82% reduction in cost and have been overwlemed by the encouraging feedback from both the sighted and the blind equally.!