Braille Phone

The Challenge

Transform life experiences of specially-abled by bridging the ever-widening technology gap.


The Outcome

A futuristic concept phone (and working prototype) that provides smartphone capabilities and beyond to visually impaired users.


Recognitions

TED Fellow

Rolex Young Laureate


Role

Innovator

Tactile Screen

The Braille Phone was a novel concept at the time. It pictures a unique tactile screen that is made up of grid of pins, these can rise up from surface of the screen. Together, they could form touchable patterns. 


For a non-sighted this display can be metaphorised as a sculpture in a world full of paintings. 

Smartphone

As ubiquitous smartphones these days do, Braille Phone provides access to all the tech features. Instead of using visual screen, it relies on tactile screen to convey the same information as a smartphone.


Along with the screen, the interface itself is designed for easy usage as touchable one. Non-sighted users hence are able to use all features of smartphone such as phone calling, messaging, organiser, maps, music, email etc. 

Superpower

Apart from typical features, the phone also acts as a translator of information from visual to tactile. It can be specially useful for scenarios such as text to tactile, image to tactile, skype video to tactile or even tactile conversion in face-to-face conversation.


Interface such as this, not only helps visually impaired users to catch up with masses, but also lead them with some (tech) superpowers of their own.

User Research

Its more important to identify problems, then the solutions which can solve a problem. We immersed ourselves in shadowing users to understand their daily routines. This was a novel project, and hence required deeper understanding of what would fit best in user's context. We built journey maps that could closely reflect user's persona and can help us identify areas which we can target. We then validated and iterated those with a bigger set of users. 


We worked in close relationship with organisations for blind to provide us easy access to users and influencers.


Inclusive design guidelines

Some of the seminal guidelines that we learned from frequent user research are mentioned below:


  • Sequential and linear workflows.
  • Short workflows with landmarks.
  • Consistent layouts with high affordance.
  • Real life metaphors.
  • Discreet usage.

Prototyping

The project had an opposite lifecycle than a typical product. Instead of an evolution into a state of art product, we started with a futuristic product and then backtracked our way into what was feasible. 


This involved frugal and rapid prototyping and then validating the same with users. The prototypes varied in functionality, form and fidelity. While some were 3D prints, some were actual working models with compromised features.