There's no shortage of exciting research looking to help the vision-impaired gain better access to the world's information, but many of the projects we've already seen are either years away from commercial release or prohibitively expensive.
South Korean tech developer, Dot, might be able to turn all that around, however, with world's first smartwatch for vision-impaired people. The device uses a refreshable Braille display composed of an array of active dots that are capable of projecting four Braille characters at a time. You can customise the speed with which characters refresh, letting you skim or dawdle through text at a personalised pace.
"Ninety percent of blind people become blind after birth, and there's nothing for them right now – they lose their access to information so suddenly," said Eric Ju Yoon Kim, Dot's co-founder and CEO, in an interview with Colin Moreshead from Tech in Asia. "Dot can be their lifeline, so they can learn Braille and access everyday information through their fingers, which is the goal of Braille literacy."
Under its unique facade, the Dot is designed to provide the kinds of features and functionality you'd expect in any regular smartwatch. It includes time-keeping, an alarm, a messenger app, navigation capabilities, and Bluetooth 4.0 to wirelessly connect to other technology. Battery life is said to last for up to 10 hours of active refreshing, which should give the Dot as much as five days' ongoing use before needing recharging (take that, Apple Watch).
In addition to standard smartwatch features, the Dot can also do something that current smartwatches can't: act as an ebook reader. Due to their extremely small screens, conventional smartwatches make for a lousy substitute for a Kindle, but the Dot's active Braille display is just as suited to conveying longer-form writing as it is short messages and notifications (it's also a lot more comfortable to rest your fingers on your wrist than to keep your head inclined towards it).
Best of all, the Dot's release is imminent and its anticipated low cost makes it a practical, accessible purchase. Unlike the Braille e-readers that are currently on the market for a few/couple? thousand dollars each, the Dot is expected to cost under US$300 when it launches in the US this December, and the device is available for pre-order now.