The 13-year-old Shubham Banerjee has become the youngest entrepreneur in the world for having invented the cheapest and lightest Braille printer in the world. His success and commitment is perhaps a consolation to the clichéd adage “necessity is the mother of invention”. Since the necessity for more cost-effective and Braille printers had been floating for years until a curious adolescent, thought of those millions who cannot afford a printer priced at $2000. Thus came into being the Braigo Labs-the company launched by Shubham to develop low-cost Braille printers. The company received funding support from the Intel Corp. in November last year. The invention has also earned him “The Tech Awards” 2014 apart from an invitation to the White House Maker Fair, which is an event awarding student entrepreneurs and innovators.
Shubham had initially designed a Braille printer using the Lego robotics kit while participating in a school science fair project in 2014. With the help of an investment of $35,000 from his father, he developed an advanced version, Braigo 2.0, that translates electronic text into Braille before printing.
This single invention has a huge potential for India, where the poor remain excluded from availing the benefits of technological innovations because of being too expensive. According to a news report, India has 7.8 million blind people. This accounts for 20 percent of the total number of blind people in the world. The young entrepreneur has shared in an interview that he wants to continue with his grand project and intends to develop a Braille printer that can print the script of other languages including Hindi.
However, being priced at $350 which in Indian currency would cost around 21,000 rupees, its affordability still remains dubious specially for those with trying financial resources. This becomes even more relevant with the findings of reports and studies that have analysed the relationship between poverty and blindness. In one such study in Pakistan, it was found, “The prevalence of total blindness was more than three times higher in poor clusters of the population than in affluent clusters.”
The innovation still has huge potential for the blind schools that are faced with scarcity in Braille material. Currently, there are multiple Braille Press supplying Braille material to schools since the schools themselves do not engage in the production process. The Central Braille Press in Dehradun is the first centralised Braille Press in India since 1951; and it continues to supply text books from Class I to VI free of cost and at highly subsidized rates from Class VII onwards. This was after a uniform Braille code was developed by Lal Advani, a civil servant, and S.K. Chatterjee, a linguist, following an international conference on Braille uniformity in Paris in 1950.
Moreover, individual access to available Braille material and limited supply of the same being circulated in comparison to printed books presents a restriction in the learning and reading process of the blind. Access to voice recorders and computer technologies remains limited till date with only the economically more stable ones having enough resources to expend in them.
Nevertheless, the Braigo printer is still one step ahead in terms of extending the rights to access Braille material globally. Secondly, given that the young innovator is just taking his baby steps in the world of technology and innovation, there is still greater hope that further breakthroughs is likely to increase accessibility through low-cost advanced models.
Image Source: [Google]