DOTBOOK: India’s first Braille Laptop for the Visually-Impaired


Aiming at creating Independent Access to Digital Content for the Visually Impaired (VI), Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Delhi have developed a Braille laptop called DotBook, which can be useful for the visually impaired.

The laptop has got important conventional applications such as email, calculator, and web browser. Third party apps can also be added in case needed.

Pulkit Sapra, 26, from Delhi and Suman Muralikrishnan, 27, from Chennai — both researchers at IIT-Delhi opted out of their placements and continued researching and working on the idea, which after five years has been launched as India’s first laptop for visually-impaired.

“It all started as a student project and our aim was to make digital content available in Braille to the visually-impaired. Earlier, if they had to read something it had to be embossed on paper, but there is so much content on the digital platform that it is not humanly possible to emboss everything. Thus, we wanted to create a standalone device that would help the visually impaired to read digital content through Braille,” explains Pulkit.

It has been launched in two variants called 40Q and 20P. The 40Q variant can have 40 characters per line and features a conventional QWERTY keyboard and a Braille keyboard, while 20P can have 20 characters in a line and has only a Braille keyboard. The laptops are equipped with refreshable Braille display.

The laptop was developed on the basis of multiple user trials to take care of preferences and needs of the user community. Among other things, it has a specially designed hand-rest to help the users to work for long hours without any drop in efficiency.

Technology & Features

This is a cost-effective, ergonomic design with an aim to eliminate the dependence on laptops and writing assistants. The DotBook 40Q is specially designed & developed for the Visually Impaired, using IIT Delhi’s Patented Technology based on Shape Memory Alloys; with built-in applications such as File Manager, Web Browser, E-mail, Notepad & Word Processor – Read & Edit Text & Doc Files, Ebook Manager (Browse, Search, Download & Read eBooks – .brf, .epub, .txt, .pdf files) and Screen Readers (NVDA: Windows PC & Laptops | Braille Back: Anroid OS).
  • The equipment can be connected through wifi, Bluetooth and USB
  • 40 Cell / 8-Pin Braille, QWERTY Keyboard,
  • Thumb Keys for easy navigation and Stereo Speakers,
  • External Memory (Micro SD Card),
  • Headset Connectivity & USB Slots
  • Preview and order here

Design Thought Process

he DotBook Technology provides ‘line by line’ output of Digital Content through a Tactile interface, thereby streamlining the procedure of reading and managing the digital content. Based on Visually-impaired Users’ interaction with the system at every stage of development including problem identification, design feedback, and prototype validation, we refined DotBook’s design to make it even more user-friendly, convenient and cost-effective.

DotBook is armed with AM335x 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 high processing speed processors and powered by inbuilt rechargeable batteries. It supports Bluetooth/USB/ Wi-Fi interface and can be connected with a multitude of devices such as computers and smartphone. This standalone and portable device with a user-centric and ergonomic design aims to create true empowerment for people with Visual Impairment, be it at School, at Work or during Leisure.

The QWERTY Keyboard acts as a plus point for Users who have gotten used to using standard laptops and computers and are comfortable with the QWERTY Format for input. This can be converted at any time to a Perkins input method, for Users who prefer the Classic Perkins setup.

The project leader, Prof M. Balakrishnan, said, “DotBook represents an excellent example of user oriented applied research. it is inter-disciplinary in nature which brings advanced techniques, low power electronics, software and User interface design together. It is a result of sustained efforts over four years of a multi-organizational team comprising academics, two industry partners and a user organization.”

IIT-Delhi researchers have developed the laptop in collaboration with KritiKal Solutions Pvt Ltd., Noida, Pheonix Medical Systems Pvt. Ltd., Chennai, Saksham Trust, New Delhi and Wellcome Trust of UK. KritiKal Solutions will manufacture, maintain and market them. Phoenix Medical Systems will provide the modules for refreshable Braille display.

Dipendra Manocha, Managing Director, Saksham Trust, said, “DotBook opens up digital life to Braille users. It creates an eco-system that allows people who read and write in Braille, to communicate seamlessly with the rest of the world.”

“As compared to the international devices, our device is affordable but we would like to make it even more accessible in the future with the help of government subsidies or similar schemes. Currently, they will be up for sale through our partners like Saksham and the others, later we would also like to make it available on several online platforms,” concludes Pulkit.