The Braigo
November 7, 2014 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Shubham Banerjee is an inventor who earlier this year unveiled a braille printer that he was able to assemble with a Mindstorms LEGO kit and a few very inexpensive odds and ends from the hardware store. Here he is presenting a demo of the device in action. He has named the device a Braigo and has created a startup company with the intention to refine the design and put it on the market. Earlier this week, Intel Capital announced it would invest in the company. And what's the kicker to this story? Banerjee is only 13 years old.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI (6 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
He asked his father how blind people read.

"Google it," was his father's response.
Classic dad. Class act kid.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:17 PM on November 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

I worked on this video piece about a piano grad student trying to find a method of tactile musical notation that was readable by sighted people as well. It hit on two major disconnects between her and sighted people. (Forgive me for pointing out the obvious and sounding like a book report; I had a classmate who used a heavy old-style Braille writer in elementary school, and I thought it was kind of fascinating seeing the way this student navigated her own situation today.)

First, the tactile solutions are so large in comparison to printed letters that it's physically difficult to store or even move a lot of touch-based material. She started out with a 3D printer (plastic) that basically did a raised version of a score, but it was nearly 1/4 inch thick -- practically the size of a subway tile for a single line.

Second, they look so different. When she reads Braille scores, her teacher can't tell by looking at it whether it's Chopin or a novel. Her teacher works from a corresponding visual score, and they have to trust each other that they're on the same page.

Eventually, the solution she came up with involved (I believe) a kind of pen with 3D ink. But when I initially interviewed her last fall, she said, "This pen's not coming out until December." So she was banking on a brand new piece of technology... and then made it work for her, to a notable degree, over the next few months. She then gave her DMA recital demonstrating this technology and performing.

One other big reason that a solution combining visual and tactile printing would be great is for people who lost their sight later in life (e.g. people with diabetes or macular degeneration) and are unfamiliar with Braille, but could probably catch on to something more closely resembling what they were used to seeing.

So, my blathering observations:
1. Cripes, technology is cool.
2. As in the book about d/Deaf people reviewed in another post, communication disconnects between people with differing abilities seems like they should be easier to bridge these days, but they still aren't.
3. How can we get this kind of technology out to people who want and need to use it -- who are often much less able to afford it?
4. How can we find more solutions with smaller, tinker-able kits like the Braigo and the kid who made a 3D prosthetic hand?
posted by Madamina at 2:14 PM on November 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

In 1975, IBM made a feature for the 1403 printer that allowed it to print Braille. It was surprising to me and pretty cool to watch.

...and way more expensive than this.
posted by MtDewd at 2:37 PM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Good on you, kiddo:-)
I love it when kids get a chance to show their smarts.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:39 PM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Such an amazing kid. And what a great story.

I'd love to see him work on a Refreshable Braille Device made from Lego next. Refreshable Braille Devices are very expensive, especially for young kids learning Braiile.

Here is a photo of a Refreshable Braille Device being used..
posted by greenhornet at 11:44 AM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd love to see him work on a Refreshable Braille Device made from Lego next.

As soon as you named the device, I knew exactly what you meant (first appears briefly at 0:38).
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 2:59 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

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