Five pioneers, aged between 25 and 30, have been named as Young Laureates of the Rolex Awards. And one of the winner is Sumit Dagar. She receives 50,000 Swiss francs to implement her project : an affordable and brand new Braille phone

Recreating the interface between blind people and mobile phone

Here is what Rolex communication and Richard Lane say on the project : 

India has the largest visually impaired population in the world : around 62.7 million people who are either blind or sight-impaired. They have been left out of the smartphone revolution, increasing their isolation in a fast-moving world. Sumit Dagar is designing a prototype of an affordable Braille phone that will open the door to technology.

He realized that rural communities, just two hours away from the city, are 10 years behind in term of technolgy usage. And that disabled people, and especially blind people, are particularly isolated by technology. Dagar’s ambition is to make life far easier for the visually impaired with a Braille phone but with a different vision. He will build a phone from scratch with the specific design and capability for blind users via a tactile system based on the Braille alphabet. Speech output is not necessarily the good technological solution. In India, there is a problem with the English-language artificial voice; many blind people  don't understand it. Another disadvantage of speech is the lack of privacy when users’ messages or e-mails are read out by a talking phone.

The Braille phone will use a simple framework: the screen technology will use pixels to vary height, rather than colour, as on a normal smartphone. A high-resolution screen would thus be capable of conveying simple Braille text, as well as various shapes, figures and maps. Users would be able to “view” a face using the sense of touch, or follow a map to find their way home. Or even play a game of noughts and crosses. The screen would also be touch-responsive like existing smartphones, so users could input information, make phone calls easily and comfortably undertake many daily tasks, thus transforming the lives of India’s blind people. According to the World Health Organization, India has the largest visually impaired population in the world, with an estimated 62.7 million people who are either blind or sight-impaired.


By Renaud Edouard-Baraud
CEO of L'Atelier BNP Paribas Asia