Opening door to new technology for visually challenged

Apr 12 2013, 15:57 IST
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SummarySumit Dagar is a 29-year-old visionary who calls himself an 'interaction designer'.

Sumit Dagar is a 29-year-old visionary who calls himself an 'interaction designer'. His technological skills, inventiveness and passion for design have prepared him for a place among today's young entrepreneurs. But there is one difference: he wants to put people's lives before profit.

In conversation with Purabi Bora of, Dagar talks about a prototype of an affordable Braille smartphone he has designed that will open the door to new technology:

Q1. What inspired you to come up with the idea of developing a Braille smartphone? How do you intend to make a difference with it?

A:During my student days (as an engineer and later as a designer), it was a long standing motivation to design solutions for minority user groups. Coming from frequent experiences with rural Indian population, I observed a vast gap between technological power of majority user groups and minority user groups (like rural population, disabled users et al). As I delved further into problem finding, I observed a negative trend in this gap, which seemed to be widening further with time. While mainstream users got increasingly more "superpowers" thanks to the technological innovations, minority groups were further left behind.

One particular innovation stood out, recent (at that time) transformation of almost all the interfaces into touch-based systems meant that devices, which were normally usable by blind users were suddenly rendered useless. Ubiquitous devices, including phones and tablets were increasingly becoming reliant on touch/multi-touch systems.

My motivation was to start solving this problem, and in parallel provide a perfect technological solution for the blind users. It should be a technological companion, which provides comprehensive features and is comfortable to use. Hence, the solution was to make a tactile touch screen-based phone -- a hand-held device that is feature-rich and as advanced as other mainstream competitive devices.

Q. Why we need this and the difference it will make

A:There are 300 million blind people in the world. Of these, 90% live in developing countries, with India having the highest number of visually impaired (38 million). Of these, 39 million are totally blind worldwide and 17 million in India. Of the assistive devices available for visually impaired, Braille display-based devices are usually the most preferred solutions. In comparison to speech-based devices, they are quiet and are more accessible universally, beyond limitations of language. These displays cost in the range of Rs 1,75,000 to Rs 7,50,000 depending on capability. Braille Notetakers, which

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