Bonocle: screen text reader for the visually impaired

Bonocle: screen text reader for the visually impaired

Three inventors in Qatar win an innovation prize with a smart invention that translates screen text on a smartphone or tablet into braille for the blind or visually impaired. They ask Spark to help them make the transition from prototype to product.

Smaller and better

The prototype allows the user to identify and follow digital text on the screen of a device (a smartphone or tablet). A braille cell on the device transmits the characters one by one to the user’s fingertip via eight small, independently moving pins. Spark project leader Wichert Put: “But it was big. It needed to be smaller and improved significantly in both aesthetic and ergonomic terms.”

Nice gadget

Thanks to the electronics developed by Spark, the ‘new’ Bonocle is as big as a computer mouse and can also be operated like one: the reader follows the text by moving the mouse and selects a new line using the buttons. This means the text doesn’t need to be indicated on the screen. “We have really been able to add a lot of value in terms of ergonomics and design. It works really well, is handy, and looks great. Not like a stigmatizing device but like a nice gadget.”

Says who?

It’s great that the makers are so pleased, but ultimately the only thing that counts is what the users think of it. Spark supplied complete, working models for user testing. Put: “The reactions we’ve had from the testers are really positive. The Bonocle was also received with great enthusiasm at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, among others by Stevie Wonder, who was present and who spent time trying out the Bonocle. What is much more interesting, however, was the suggestion by users that the Bonocle would be a great tool for learning how to read braille. Now, that’s saying something!"