Two Goa Students Hack Raspberry Pi to Teach Braille To Indian Slum Kids
To start with, deal with the fact that 39 million people around the world are visually impaired and 20% of that population resides in India. The literacy level is as low as 10% for even an advanced country like US. The reason? Dearth of proper teachers and special schools. And when you consider India, affordability comes first and then some.
The task to educate those challenged people is gigantic if not more. However, initiatives like Project Mudra shows a glimpse of promise. Being educated about Raspberry Pi, the smallest and cheapest credit sized computer, two grads from BITS Pilani (Goa) are set to take out the price issue from picture.
Sanskriti Dawle and Aman Srivastav have hacked the Raspberry Pi to take advantage of the digital nature of Braille hardware set to create what they call a “dicta-teacher”.
The device is a Raspberry Pi (coded with Python) connected to a Braille hardware set, a small palm sized box with six pegs which move up and down to take shapes which indicates different letter and number as per the Braille System. The device can be programmed in two ways. It can be set to auto to replicate letters and dictate the same via headphones helping a visually challenged person learn.
On the other hand, in browse mode, it can also be talked to (by user) and then with voice recognition technology (from Google), the same can be imitated on the braille boards to give the users an interactive experience thereby learning at his own pace or set by someone else.
The project is still being polished by the grads. Experts while applauding the initiative, claimed the primary hurdle for Braille learning is not in learning the characters but learning to do it fast and efficiently in order to apply that in learning more. Additionally, they claimed the flat pegs do not resemble the original braille dots, which might make it tougher to read original braille books later.
The creators of the device are planning to come up with needle thin braille dots instead of thick pegs which the model has now. The lack of teachers in the field is also another concern. As for the ideators, they believe the device can also be built up in a way that can standardize the teacher certification process.
The founders are currently in search of investors to round up money to produce this device. The estimate cost, if produced at a mass scale will be around INR 10000 which is only a fraction of the current braille display price, which costs as much as INR 200,000 for an unit. This indeed can make education affordable for the masses.
A country plagued with illiteracy and poverty can definitely be benefited from endeavors like Project Mudra. In the hindsight, while most startups around the globe are just trying to be the next Whatsapp or Snapchat, a healthy mix of entrepreneurs trying to achieve social good is indeed refreshing.