According to the World Health Organization, 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired. Of that number 39 million are blind and 246 million have low vision. South Korean Dot, Inc. builds apps and electronic devices that display information in Braille for visually impaired people. Dot is currently developing four digital platforms: Dot Pad, Dot Public, Dot Mini, and Dot Watch. The watch shipped to initial backers in March 2017.
The Dot Watch uses active braille technology so users can tell the time and date and read notifications of call and messages via braille patterns of small dots on the round watch face. The watch has four braille cells so users read four characters at a time. The Dot Watch app, available for both iOS and Android smartphones, lets users configure the watch and access the watch’s functions. The user chooses braille mode or tactile mode. Tactile mode is Dot’s braille representation set for people who are not familiar with standard braille format. The watch app also has a learn function via which words entered on the smartphone convert to standard braille or tactile mode on the watch – the user and the watch both “learn.” During app setup, users can configure any additional mobile app that sends notifications to route the messages to the watch in addition to the phone display.
Dot Public assists visually impaired people with information or access via pads built into surfaces in public areas. Dot Pad, a small notepad-size device, supports a variety of tactile formats including books, coding, math, and graphic figures. Dot Mini is a small handheld device with scheduled to launch at the end of 2018 for distribution in eastern Africa. Dot partnered with Koica’s CTS Project (Creative Technology Solutions). Funded by Grand Challenge Korea and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the plan is to distribute 1,000 Dot Minis in Kenya to support educational material and curriculum for visually impaired children.