PRE2018 3 Group13

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Problem statement

Globally, around 356.000 people are deafblind, which means they cannot hear nor see. The way to communicate with these people is with braille writing. Regarding leisure, obviously, there are a lot of restrictions. Take for example reading books. Only around 1% of all books has been translated to braille, which means that people who are deafblind have very limited reading material. People that are just blind often will revert to listening to audio books, because there are so little braille books.


The objective for this project is to make it possible for people to read all books in braille writing, by making a real-time translator which converts digital files to tangible braille. This way, people whose only choice to read books is by using braille, can read any book they want to, without being limited to the small number of books that have been printed in braille writing.

Target group

The group for which this project is relevant is deafblind people, as said. However, the people that will use the device that will be the solution to this problem will have to be able to read braille writing. However, this is not the only group at which the final product is aimed.

Visually impaired people do not always enjoy listening to audio books. Perhaps the circumstances do not allow for listening to an audiobook, or reading braille is perceived to be more comfortable. These people are also an important target group which will be taken into account when designing a solution to the stated problem.


On this wiki page, the project of group 13 will be fully described and explained. As stated in the Problem Statement, this project has to be about robotics, while keeping in mind the USE aspects. In chapter 3, it is explained what goals are set and how these goals will be reached. A role division and a planning is made, so the process is structured and the work is divided properly.

Chapter 4 will be about the user requirements. Of course, the users are a big part of the project and the user-friendliness will be one of the main points of focus. Thus, this chapter elaborates widely about different solutions to the posed problem, as well as researched the user experiences and preferences. This way, the user requirements can be set up to the user’s liking, so the end product will be as user-friendly as possible and therefore compliant with the USE aspects.

In chapter 5, the end products of the project will be described. Since two final products were made, as well as a conceptual addition to the found solution, this chapter is divided in separate sections, each elaboration on the different end products and the tasks that came along with them, such as programming and modelling.

A project cannot be complete without recommendations on further improvements. In chapter 6, it is explained what can still be improved upon and which steps can be added to further improve the outcome of the project.

(Finally, the group reflects on their own process and explains which parts of the project should have been done differently, what could have enhanced the group process and what other steps could have been taken to get to a better result.)


For the mechanical prototype:
Firstly, we will research braille on which we can base our user requirements on. We then look for existing patents and their mechanics on a Braille output system and look for possible trade-offs. Once we have detailed insight on the possible solutions, we devise our own solution based on our design decisions that correspond to the user requirements. We make a concept to visualize our idea and eventually we will make a (physical) prototype that can be tested with our target users.

For the user-friendliness:
Firstly, we will research braille on which we can base our user requirements on. We then look for the most user-friendly materials and user-interface so we can improve the user-friendliness of the machine.


Have digital text be the input of a reusable interface where the text is converted to braille. The braille can be projected per word or group of words, depending on their


  • Choose the research topic
  • Summarize a State-of-the-Art by performing a literature study
  • Find a contact person that fits our target user group to gather additional information <il>regarding our case
  • Create user requirements for the robot
  • Validate the requirements with the contact person
  • Design a concept build corresponding to the requirements
  • Validate the concept with the contact person
  • Build a prototype of our concept and test it with the contact person
  • Produce a final presentation in which we discuss the process, design and prototype


Compact, user-friendly and cost-efficient physical braille interface. The Braille interface should accept digital text and convert it to several Braille characters at a time. User-friendliness consists of:

  • Type of material to interact with
  • Speed of the machine
  • Possible physical interaction with buttons/triggers (functionality)

Possibly a working prototype of one or several letters, that can be reset and configures itself to a given input.

Role division

  • Material choice
    • Dennis
  • User interface and requirements
    • Thomas
  • Hardware modelling
    • Luc
  • Prototype builder
    • Simon
  • Programmer
    • Dirk


The planning of the project can be found here.

User requirements

We will need a way to convert (digital) text to braille and we can do it as follows:

Create a robot which is able to translate e-books into braille so that the users can read it (with translate we do not mean to write a new book with the translation but instead some other form of reusable interface).

In order to determine fitting user requirements, we have broken down our research into different sections in which we look at general literature studies, user focused research and materials for the braille interaction. From these sections we draw our overall user requirements, which can be found at:

State-of-the-Art literature study

We have a seperate page for the literature study which contains summaries of knowledge relevant to braille and its users. From systems, mechanisms to its perception and standards. The page can be found here.

Material study

For materials we’ll first look into materials which can act as a cover over the pins of the robot. For this to be possible, the material would need to be sufficiently elastic. With this approach we aim to provide a good user experience which might be hindered by the spaces and inconsistencies that a non-elastic braille display would provide. This inconsistencies might be created because of faults in the connection between the braille display and the pins or unintended deformation of the braille display. Based on the feedback we’ll receive from our interviews, we might look into the non-elastic materials. Further in depth information can be found here.

User research

Besides the literature study, we would like more direct involvement from our target group as well. To involve them in the design and development process and in order to do so, we have attempted to contact several institutes and communities for blind people both through phone calls and online posts. Unfortunately, the amount of responses we got is low and we only managed to get a few of our survey filled in. Therefore we have decided to look for existing surveys that relate to our users and questions. The results of all user surveys are on this page.

Final results

In this chapter, the final results will be described, as well as the process of getting to these results.

Sentence (dummy)

We designed to demonstrate the look and scale of the braille surface, this involes 3d models and a somewhat simplified 3d printed product. More detail here.

Casing (dummy)

The second part of the dummy will be the casing. This casing refers to the outside of the dummy which is used to provide an estimate of the size of our robot and a base on which the other parts will be attached to. Since we focus more on the reading aspect, for the base a simple box would be sufficient. The dimensions of this box will most likely depend on the needed estimated space for the hardware and the size of the braille display. An important thing to take into consideration when creating the casing, will be to consider interaction between the braille display dummy and the casing itself. For example, in case you want to change the letters of braille on the display, the casing should allow for a display to be removed and reattached.

Letter (solenoids)

For the function prototype we have created one functional letter. This letter accept pdf intput and displays the text one by one letter controlled by a button. The letter is represented by solenoids and the software shows its workings on the connected computer. More details on the functioning and the creation process are here.

Concept interface

We have created a conceptual interface for how the product would look in reality, this mostly concerns where the buttons for refreshing and toggeling automatic refreshing have to be placed. More detail here.

Further improvement and future work

We are happy about our one letter prototype but if our product was to be produced, the refreshable braille display would obviously contain more letters. This would be easily achievable with a larger budget, as it is basically creating multiple single letter displays and connecting them. As for functionality, it would mostly stay the same.

We would also change the size of our prototype. For our one-letter prototype we prioritized accessibility over compactness, since we had limited time and a limited budget. We chose to get the solenoids that we could easily acquire in a short period of time. There isn’t much choice for different sizes on the market. If our product were to go in production we would ideally be able to make (or have access to) custom sized (smaller) solenoids so we could fit everything in a much smaller case. Same goes for the batteries, we would use smaller lithium battery packs, as opposed to multiple AA batteries that take up lots of space. We would then incorporate our design idea for the casing into the product, with the letters and buttons positioned conveniently for the reader. We would add a “previous” button, to return to the previous line, and optionally a motion sensor for continuing to the next line.