As technology continues to push the boundaries of what we previously could only dream of, a group of people frequently gets overlooked. The digital age has put some of the most amazing technology in the hands of the able-bodied, but those who are blind seem to be all but left behind.
One South Korean company is looking to change that. Eric Ju Yoon Kim, CEO and Co-founder of Dot, developed the Dot Smartwatch — a wearable that allows user to receive notifications from texts, emails, and social media, all in braille.
According to an article on Tech in Asia: “90% of blind people become blind after birth, and there’s nothing for them right now — they lose their access to information so suddenly. Dot can be their lifeline, so they can learn Braille and access everyday information through their fingers, which is the goal of Braille literacy,” said Kim.
With an anticipated price under $300, the Dot smartwatch is a good first step in introducing wearable technology to an underserved group of people. But it’s also a perfect example of how much further we need to go. Here’s how the watch functions: A set of dull pins rise and fall, showing four characters at a time. While users can set the refresh speed to be faster or slower, reading four letters of notification, bit by bit, is a pretty poor user experience. Think about it; it would take a mighty 35 refreshes to read a single 140 character tweet.
NBC reported that less than 10 percent of the 1.3 million legally blind Americans can actually read braille. Kim hopes that this will inspire the legally blind to learn braille, since his website claims that the watch is targeted to new braille learners.
Currently, there are two popular forms of watches for the blind: a circular interfaced watch or a smart device with audio controls. Whether or not Dot is successful is beside the point, because the simple presence of the company is going to show a market desire for these products that could finally bring technology to the millions of people who are blind.
So Dot may not revolutionize the way blind people process information, but it will, however, finally start a conversation surrounding the lack of technology for the visually impaired.