BrailleBox: Android Things Braille news display

Joe Birch has built a simple device that converts online news stories to Braille, inspired by his family’s predisposition to loss of eyesight. He has based his BrailleBox on Android Things
, News API
, and aRaspberry Pi 3.

The background

Braille is a symbol system for people with visual impairment which represents letters and numbers as raised points. Commercial devices that dynamically produce Braille are very expensive, so Joe decided to build a low-cost alternative that is simple to recreate.

Image by DIPF CC BY-SA 3.0

News API is a tool for fetching JSON metadata from over 70 online news sources. You can use it to integrate headlines or articles into websites and text-based applications.

The BrailleBox

To create the six nubs necessary to form Braille symbols, Joe topped solenoids with wooden balls. He then wired them up to GPIO pins of the Pi 3 via a breadboard.

One of the solenoids Joe built into the BrailleBox

Next, he took control of the solenoids using Android Things. He set up the BrailleBox software to start running on boot, and added a push button. When he presses the button, the program fetches a news story using News API, and the solenoids start moving.

BrailleBox Demo

Uploaded by Joe Birch on 2017-06-20.

Since Joe is an Android Engineer, looking through his write-up
and code
for BrailleBox might be useful for anyone interested in Android Things.

If you like this project, make sure you keep an eye on Joe’s Twitter
, since he has plans to update the BrailleBox design. His next step is to move on from the prototyping stage and house all the hardware inside the box. Moreover, he is thinking about adding a potentiometer so that users can choose their preferred reading speed.

Accessibility

If you want to find our community’s conversation about accessibility and assistive technology,head to the forums. And if you’re working to make computing more accessible, or if you’ve built an assistive project, let us know in the comments oron social media, so that we can boost the signal!

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