Being blind cuts you off from many opportunities, and communication can be particularly troublesome when the one you're trying to reach isn't within hearing distance. Fortunately, OwnFone has the answer.
The British company has introduced a phone that uses Braille, the age-long language that replaces the written word with a series of perforations detectable by touch.
There were some phone-related products using braille in the past, but this is the first time a phone relies exclusively on it.
It should give those with visual disabilities a way to keep in touch with their friends and family, without having to fumble around with normal telephones or computers, assuming they got around to memorizing what buttons to press and in what order.
We won't even get into the incompatibility between touch-based tablets/phones and those suffering from eye impairments.
OwnFone calls its invention OwnFone Braille and can be personalized with two or four Braille buttons, all of them pre-programmed according to your needs.
Sure, you'll need to have someone go online and make the order and customizations for you, but after that you're home free.
For those who want to know the full process, first you need to go to the OwnFone website. Then you customize the item, choosing what names and numbers to program onto the main screen.
Well, “screen” is kind of a misnomer, since it's closer to qualifying as a Braille-based touch surface more than anything else.
Anyway, you write the names/number in English when you place the order. The OwnFone software automatically converts the info into braille.
Other things you can decide are the color of your phone (you can have different ones on the front and back), or use a picture instead of a single background hue (not that these details will matter to the user much).
Finally, once you've settled on a design, you send your order and OwnFone will use 3D printing technology to produce the front and back, raised braille included. Stereolithography-based technology is employed, as the video below shows.
The price of the OwnFone Braille phone is £60 / $100 / €73 and can have customizable raised symbols or letters instead of Braille, if the user wishes.
“The phone can be personalized with two or four Braille buttons, which are pre-programmed to call friends, family, careers or the emergency services,” Tom Sunderland, the founder of OwnFone, told the BBC. “This is the first phone to have a 3D printed keypad and for people that can’t read Braille, we can print texture and raised text on the phone. Our 3D phone printing process is patent pending.”