How Touche was born

Side view of the motor assembly under the pin plate
Side view of the motor assembly under the pin plate

With the mechanical system used, converse operation turned out to be easy. D’Souza added a Braille keyboard to make sure the visually-challenged could also write and not just read digital data.

Touche is a refreshable Braille display. All it needed was a smart combination of electronic and mechanical principles, many of which the inventor was right to patent.

The device can now take in digital data, store it in its memory, access it line-by-line and convert it to Braille. Once refreshed with a simple press of a button, the next set of 20 characters is loaded. With all procedures involved for a line display, refreshing takes less than 100 milliseconds.

Pin-plate assembly: single module and complete assembly
Pin-plate assembly: single module and complete assembly

Touche costs one-tenth of other similar devices. It has been built using easily-available and serviceable components. Most importantly, all key components have been manufactured using locally-available workshop facilities.

Ask D’Souza and he says that the biggest challenge lay in convincing fabricators and producers of components, of the need to stick to specifications and the levels of accuracy he desired. With his unconventional approach, willingness to invest in something new with an eye for detail, overcoming mind-blocks and getting people’s support turned out to be difficult. It took him six years to finally achieve his vision.

Touche has been demonstrated at Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), and Kanthari, a branch of Braille Without Borders, in Trivandrum, Kerala. It has found appreciation from visually-challenged users and was displayed to the public at a Mini Maker Faire in Bengaluru.

The designer aims to convert the set-up to use a single-board computer, to make it compatible with all software and input formats. With a few other enhancements in mind, he intends to release the product in the market in early 2016 and sincerely hopes to make the lives of the visually-impared a lot easier and better.

Priya Ravindran is a technical journalist at EFY


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