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A group of students from the Middle East have developed a pocket-sized Braille reader, a bold idea that can help the visually-impaired digest everyday reading materials. Students from the UAE University have developed “Braille Eye,” a built-in camera device that can take photos of text then turn it into Braille.

The next stage of the project is to have visually impaired people taking the device and using it in their daily lives and to see what feedback they give us.

“This device is intended to help visually-impaired people around the world become more independent in their daily lives. It will mean they don’t have to wait for Braille versions of books to be published,” Faraj Al Faraj, one of the developers told Gulf News.

“The device can be used in supermarkets, to read bills, or in restaurants, to read menus. Braille Eye is designed to help them read anything, any time, and anywhere,” he added.

The team are currently developing a working prototype which has been in production since May 2016, and can translate 40 languages into Braille.

“The device is adjustable, and can translate at least 40 different languages including Arabic and English,” fellow developer Mahmoud Abdul Malik said.

“The technology we use to convert the written material is called optical character recognition,” he added. “It is a proven and reliable technology that gives us an accuracy of 98 percent.”

Book with a Braille Translator on it.

The concept behind the invention is for the user to point the device at the reading material – for example, if the user would like to read a flyer – and the camera will take a picture of the text then translate it into Braille on the top side of the device, which has a refreshable Braille display.

One potential flaw, which as of yet has not been accounted for, is how will the visually-impaired user be able to pinpoint the text in order to take the picture? The team say it’s all about trial and error in the upcoming tests.

Developers are now ready to test the device on members of the public to gain valuable feedback, and tweak their invention accordingly. The students have already invited a group of visually impaired people to try the device, and are hoping to bring it to market in the very near future.

“The next stage of the project is to have visually impaired people taking the device and using it in their daily lives and to see what feedback they give us.

“Once we get their opinion, we will make any improvements based on their recommendation, and look to have the final developed device made available for the market,” Malik added.

It takes bold ideas like these to push the boundaries of innovation, and to better the lives of millions of people around the world. Not only will “Braille Eye” ensure the visually-impaired are more connected, but it will make life easier for so many plagued by darkness.