The interactive tutor
The interactive braille tutor device comprises a braille tutor unit and a remote unit. The braille tutor unit has six slots, each of which houses a wooden bead. The beads come out in various combinations to represent a particular letter of the English alphabet in Braille. There are a couple of features that make learning fun. The device interacts by way of speech, which reduces the monotony of not having a human teacher. The quiz mode allows the students to test their learning.
The product demonstrated by the team teaches Kannada and English along with numbers and symbols, using Kannada as the medium of instruction. It has been designed such that the Braille character data as well as the digitised speech data is stored on an SD memory card inside the unit. By changing the content of the SD memory card, one can easily customise the product to provide training in different media of instructions and teach different (even foreign) languages.
[stextbox id=”info” caption=”Salient features”]1. Speech assist. The device speaks each character before changing the pattern in the Braille cell. This helps extensively in self-learning and reduces the effort of the Braille teacher.
2. Handy remote control. User-independent learning, designed for single hand and thumb operation.
3. Minimum buttons. All of which can be reached out by the left- or right-hand thumb, thus doing away with awkward grappling with the remote.
4. Memory included. A 2GB memory card has been included to assimilate the data of at least twelve languages.[/stextbox]
The device was designed and fabricated in Mysore using locally available components. Keeping Indian conditions in mind, it is provided with rough industrial-grade enclosures for ruggedness.
The remote unit assists the child in picking up Braille quickly. It has seven buttons, viz, quiz/learn, first, last, previous, next, language and answer. The features are so simple that it takes only a few minutes of orientation by the teacher for the student to learn its working perfectly.
The first prototype was made nearly three years ago. It had an 8-bit Atmel AVR (ATmega32) controller inside. The device had captive beads with just one Braille cell and produced simple beeps in the speaker. When Setty presented it to the local school for the visually impaired, the teachers and students at the school took to the concept like fish to water but wanted to add speech capability to the device. That is how the device got that particular feature.
The second prototype was built with speech capability as a technology demonstrator. “Our company developed the speech playback software from a controller’s flash memory, through a speaker which was integrated by junior engineers into the second prototype they had built,” shares Setty.