The First Smartwatch for Blind People Receives Braille 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. 

Related Articles

How does alcohol affect your brain?

Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.

(Photo by Angie Garrett/Wikimedia Commons)
Mind & Brain
  • Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
  • Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
  • Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists sequence the genome of this threatened species

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.

Surprising Science
  • A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
  • It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
  • Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.

Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.

elephant by Guillaume le Clerc

Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons

13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.

It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.

But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.

John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."

What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.

Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.

Why cauliflower is perfect for the keto diet

The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.

Purple cauliflower. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
  • The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
  • It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
Keep reading Show less