The first smart watch for blind people lets them receive texts and notifications

This is huge news for the 285 million visually impaired people around the world.

For the 285 million visually impaired people around the world, the technological advancements of our day and the conveniences of everyday life enjoyed by the sighted are rarely experienced. From libraries without braille books, to street signs and smart devices, navigating life is an entirely different and much more difficult experience. Noticing this divide in university, where sighted students could instantly get information from smart devices, while a visually impaired classmate had to lug around heavy Braille books, Eric Kim was inspired to develop a cheap impairment-friendly smartwatch.


The Dot Watch—the first smart watch for visually impaired people—is a wearable device, which instead of presenting information through text and graphics, uses a refreshable Braille display. The display is made of 24 touch sensors and utilizes electro-dynamic cells to relay information. With the help of those sensors the device knows when the finger of the user reaches the last letter on the display and instantly refreshes the screen with new letters. In this way the user can read across the small 43mm (1.7in) radius circle.

In addition to the typical watch functionalities, such as an alarm, accelerometer, and showing time down to the seconds, the watch can also display notifications from social media, text messages, directions, and other customizable information with the help of an app that pairs certain applications with the device. In addition, Dot is an open system, so anyone can develop apps for it.

So far there have already been 140,000 pre-orders of the watch from 13 different countries. English and Korean versions will be coming from the first of April, 2017, and will cost about $290 USD. Dot Inc. has received over $5 million in investment and has secured 31 patents, aspiring to be the leader in the assistive-device market.

The company is also taking an active role in improving Braille literacy across developing countries, where about 75% of the world's blind population is located. They are pairing with Korea International Cooperation Agency to supply a low cost device—Dot Mini—to 1 million visually impaired people in Kenya.

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An organism found in dirt may lead to an anxiety vaccine, say scientists

Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.

University of Colorado Boulder
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Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.

The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.

The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.

Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.

"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."

University of Colorado Boulder

Christopher Lowry

This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.

Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.

The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.

Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.

What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.

"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."

Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

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