Samsung’s Braille mobile phone
Samsung have been awarded a prestigious Gold Award by the Industrial Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) for their mobile handset, which features a Braille touch pad.
The mobile phone, known as the Touch Messenger, was developed by Samsung Design in China, a country which has 9 million visually impaired people. I had a look at the Samsung press release page, and they’re clearly very proud to have won 19 such awards in the last 5 years, making them the company with the highest total number of IDEA awards, but let’s have a closer look. The Braille system was developed by Louis Braille in 1821 after Napoleon asked him to further develop an existing system to enable his soldiers to reliably read documents in the dark without opening a light and alerting the enemy to their position.
The method of using a grid of embossed characters to represent letters wasn’t Braille’s, but the use of a simplified array of 3×2 dots was. Napoleon lost the war, but the Braille system has altered the lives of countless millions of blind people, which for me is another example of the ambivalence of technology developed for the military.
The best part of a century later, the Samsung touch pad features two 3×2 Braille characters for typing text messages, and the display of fourteen 3×2 characters at the bottom can be used to read them.
Here the letters “HI” have been typed with the touch pad and are “displayed” as impressions on the lower screen.
I’m wondering if voice-activation technology will make Braille obsolete in the same way that digital communications have effectively killed off Morse code. Another issue I see is that the circumstances of too many visually impaired people world-wide are related to poverty.
Hats off to Samsung for winning the design award; I’m looking forward to seeing the Touch Messenger go into production.
Found via PDA Live.