Accessibility Tech: The Dot Watch
Two of our core values are to narrow the digital divide, and to make things the world actually needs. We are delighted to show you a product that does both of those things well!
You may have heard of visually challenged people using the screen reader feature for accessibility; this wearable tech takes accessibility to another step with a bluetooth braille smartwatch that aims to help its users feel more independent without relying on sound, but rather touch and vibration. This company believes that “technology should be accessible to everybody” and we are behind that one hundred percent. 💯
We spoke with the Dot Watch team to learn more about “the world’s first Braille smartwatch for the blind.”
Tell us about the Dot Watch and its features.
The Dot Watch is a stylish, wearable technology device that outputs text in Braille (and its many versions) on the watch face. It is completely practical and easy to use. One prominent difference between the existing smart watches and the Dot Watch is that we access information in Braille rather than using text or graphics. To achieve this a state-of-the-art, refreshable Braille display is used. It utilizes cutting-edge, electro-dynamic cells to seamlessly relay information. In such an active era, our device aims to outfit the ones deemed ‘limited’ or ‘immobile.’
Before we created the Dot Watch the visually impaired only had the option of Braille watches. With these watches, the user opens the lid and touches the hour and minute hands in the watch dial to find out the time. There are several problems with this. First, the hour hand and the minute hand moves when the user touches it. Second, if a user is not sensitive with their fingers, it is hard to read the time. Lastly, it is very difficult to know the exact time on Braille watches.
The Dot Watch is incredibly easy to operate and beautifully crafted. Our innovation allows us to reduce the size and price of our products on a massive scale. Instead of traditional heavy, bulky Braille machines, our technology focuses on the seamlessness of use, and lightness of weight for portability. Although the device may have only 4 pins, users can still read entire notifications. By using the touch sensors, they can read up to the last letter, then remove their finger from the display, the pins will refresh to bring up the next letters. It’s seamless. Like reading a marquee sign, but in Braille. The wearer can read their personal message across the surface of the 43 mm radius circle, in private. Using the Dot Watch, people are able to read text messages, social media notifications, and other customizable information in Braille.
We have created a Dot Watch mobile application where certain applications can be paired with the device. Really, the possibilities are endless. However, it is still a watch at its core, so naturally it will have the ability to display the hours, while being the first Braille watch ever to display increments of time down to the second.
What inspired you to create Dot Watch?
Our CEO, Eric Kim, happened to meet a blind classmate while attending the University of Washington. While most of his peers used new tablet devices, his blind classmate lugged around a large and bulky textbook, which obviously took more effort. Although there are visually impaired-friendly features on most tablets, accessibility was a glaring issue. Current adaptive / assistive technology devices were often expensive, and innovations for the visually impaired has been fairly stagnant for the last two decades, specifically in regards to Braille. This is how Eric was inspired to create and develop the Braille smartwatch that became the Dot Watch.
What is the goal of your company?
An estimated 285 million people in the world are visually impaired; this includes legally blind and visually limited persons. Available technology for visually impaired people (VIP) is expensive, bulky and often limited and only around 5% of visually-impaired people worldwide have the privilege of owning Braille devices. Educational and day-to-day life for VIPs has remained severely limited.
Dot’s mission is to close the information gap between the visually impaired and sighted communities. One of our goals at Dot is to show that Braille is worth learning. Braille literacy among blind children is around 10% and those that lose sight later may never learn it at all. Our hope is that they will embrace the language as a cool new way to read and write. The Dot Watch offers a fun and easy way to not only learn the language, but connect to the world at large.
What can we expect next from you?
This year, we are preparing for the smooth launch of the Dot mini which is like a Kindle for the blind. Alongside this, we are developing a tactile graphic display for the visually impaired (sort of like an iPad for the blind).
Our goal is to put Dot on a public platform for universal access to those with limited visual ability. Due to the introduction of refreshable Braille displays, many contents became accessible for blind people. However, only 5% of blind people worldwide have the privilege to own such devices because of issues involving the technology and price. Our company is working to end the lack of actuator technology that had been in demand for many years, and use the technology to develop a refreshable Braille display and wearable device so that we can try to diminish the invisible discrimination against blind people in information accessibility.
We love accessibility tech! To learn more or to purchase the Dot Watch visit their website and check out the short video below.
All images from Dot Incorporation.
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