dotwatchA new smartwatch, the Dot, is coming out, with timepiece, navigation, fitness tracking, and other functions—but instead of the usual smartwatch display, this one is a set of rising and falling pins to display in braille. With a 10-hour battery life, the watch is scheduled start taking pre-orders later this year at a price of less than $300.

The braille display will be able to scroll any kind of text—news, email, e-books—for considerably less than the cost of a traditional full-sized braille display, which could run into the thousands of dollars.

Of course, this approach is not without its problems:

However, building a braille smartwatch comes with a catch: The US-based National Federation of the Blind estimates that just 10 percent of visually impaired people actuallylearn braille, while the UK’s Royal National Institute of Blind People reports literacy figures of less than 1 percent. That’s why it’s so handy that Dot also features a braille-learning system.

It occurs to me that the fact that braille displays cost thousands of dollars might have something to do with the relative paucity of people who actually read it. Making a watch-sized reader available for less than $300, with braille teaching tools built in, could be a big step forward for the blind. Including blind book-lovers.


  1. Braille literacy has been an issue for decades before refreshable Braille displays existed. Most sighted teachers are reluctant to learn Braille. Reading Braille visually is challenging: it’s the ultimate low-contrast display. Most school systems are reluctant to hire fluent Braille-by-touch readers, since they’re blind. In the U.S., most people lose their sight from diabetes, which impairs nerves in your eyes *and your fingertips.” The National Braille Press has useful information about the continued place of Braille in a time of ubiquitous technology.

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