Courtesy Dot IncorporationWhen a blind Parisian schoolteacher named Louis Braille first published his eponymous dot-based language in 1829, thousands of visually impaired readers around the world were given the tools to effortlessly participate in the culture of stories, music, and mathematics that surrounded them. Nearly 200 years later, we can add to that list tweets, texts, and Google Maps directions. (Find out what it really means to be color blind.)
Courtesy Dot IncorporationMeet the Dot: the world’s first braille smartwatch. Debuting this year with an initial run of 100,000 units, the Dot hugs your wrist and uses Bluetooth to sync with your phone like any other smartwatch—but instead of displaying messages on a touchscreen, the Dot relies on a sleek grid of rising and falling dots that spell out braille words, four characters at a time. And if the company’s teaser video is any indication, it looks awesome.
With a dynamic braille display that can be adjusted to suit the wearer’s preferred reading speed, the Dot transcribes real-time updates from whatever device it’s connected to, meaning Facebook alerts, texts, emails, GPS directions, and virtually any other mobile notification is now fair game for instant braille transcription. Users can also send simple messages from their wrist using a small suite of buttons on the watch’s side.
Courtesy Dot IncorporationWhile varied mobile devices for the visually impaired already exist, most (including the Apple Watch) rely on obtrusive audio notifications instead of the more private, tactile appeal of braille to share information. Of course, being able to read a message only four letters at a time is far from ideal (to read one page of the Reader’s Digest braille edition this way would probably take ten or fifteen minutes), but the Korean start-up behind Dot sees their watch as an exciting jumping-off point for future accessible tech. The team is allegedly in talks with Google to develop a braille e-reader using the same tactile button display by 2018, and has signed a deal with Kenya’s government to bring the country 8,000 educational braille tablets for around $200 each.
Courtesy Dot IncorporationFor now, the Dot smartwatch is available for pre-order in the U.S., with a price tag of $290 before tax.