Facebook, texting and GPS are commonplace tech that most of us use. But these apps, which help to bring many of us closer together, can be incredibly alienating for the visually impaired and blind.
Small font sizes and glitch-y text-to-speak functions make keeping up with the way society communicates increasingly difficult and frustrating to those who have visual disabilities.
But a South Korean company has invented a new smartwatch that promotes inclusivity and accessibility.
The Dot smartwatch, which one could connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth, has a touch display where rising and falling dots spell out words in Braille. This means that users can receive any text from any app or service on their smartphone and have it translated into Braille on their Dot smartwatch.
Users can also send simple messages using buttons on the side of the watch.
Other smartwatches, such as the Apple Watch, have attempted to be more accessible to the visually impaired by utilizing sound to read information on the screen through a speaker, but this method often robs disabled users of privacy.
The Dot was the brainchild of founder and CEO Eric Kim. He had the idea while he was attending the University of Washington and noticed a blind classmate lugging large, bulky books to class while most students were using tablets. After learning that these were Braille textbooks, he was disheartened to learn that this student couldn’t take advantage of new technology.
Though the concept is novel, it does have its flaws.
Not all people who are visually impaired read Braille. Fewer than 10 percent of the 1.3 million people who are legally blind in the United States are Braille readers, according to a report by the National Federation of the Blind. The BBC also points out that because the watch face is small, reading long passages on the watch could be a pain.
Yet, because the Dot also has an open API, developers can constantly improve upon the technology and perhaps improve upon its technology.
The Dot smartwatch has been in the development for about 3 years, and will hit selected stores in the UK in March. The company told the Huffington Post that they hope to get units to the U.S. next and will hopefully have them available before April. They will retail for about $300 before tax.
The company is currently accepting pre-orders through their site with a 10 percent discount.