Kindle for the Blind

Team Members:

Malhar Chaudhari, Sarvesh Patkar, Virag Doshi, Tushar Advani, Suchitra Sundararaman, Akshay Gharge, Moumita Dey, Vinayak Joshi

Synopsis:

This project aims at building a portable, light weight and low power device that converts the large ocean of e-knowledge into Braille format. It is a revolutionary upgrade to the current electronic Braille display devices which are not portable. It has an easy to use audio user interface for basic operations, like searching from a library of E-Books. Also, it provides a comprehensive set of audio notifications for informing the user. The device is connected to a USB Mass Storage Device loaded with E-Books whose text can be converted to standard Braille format and displayed on a Refreshable Braille Display. This device will increase literature access to the visually impaired through the development of a portable, hand-held Braille E-Book Reader. Please note that the current version of the project does not have a refreshable braille display due to some fabrication limitations.

You can follow my new design EasyBraille, which uses a unique innovation, in the way characters are displayed from the device.

For more details:

Why is “kindle for the blind” a pressing need?

  • The number of Braille printed books is very less
  • Even if they are available, the Braille version is quite larger than the normal book
  • The cost of blind education is very high, due to requirement of special aids and professionals
  • Refreshable Braille Display cost around 2000-3000 USD often requiring additional computing hardware

This leads to an overall reduced literacy rate for the visually impaired and subsequent lower standards of living around the world. This project was motivated by the fact that, all categories of visually impaired people should have equal access and opportunity to education.

While designing these products it was equally necessary to keep in mind that we don’t just design another refreshable braille display, but a product that addressed majority of the issues discussed above.

Thus the most major features of this product are:

  • Capable of Independent Operation without any external hardware or human help achieved with the help of audio navigation and smart search
  • Capable of reading multiple books in widely available digital text formats stored in an external flash drive
  • Low power battery supported and portable

Hardware Description:

Top Level Block Diagram

Fig: Top Level Block Diagram

  • The device gets an external supply from a battery which passes it through a regulator circuit, the DC Distribution Box (DCDB) to provide regulated power to the various sections of the device. It takes 12V unregulated supply from a battery and gives regulated supply voltages of 3.3V and 5V to the different components in the system.
  • The e-books are loaded into a Mass Storage Device (USB Flash drive) in a .txt format. This Flash Drive is connected to the device (VDrive module which uses VNCL FTDI-Vinculum Chip) which reads the .txt files and converts the text into braille format to be displayed on the designed LED matrix to verify the working of the device. This particular section of the device is of significant importance as the reading of books from a flash drive is a very common mode of data storage and helps in increasing the portability of the machine.
  • The selection of the books within the flash drive is done using the speech recognition functionality of the HM 2007 Voice recognition IC. This feature allows the blind user to navigate a plethora of E-books using simple voice commands.
  • A given file is selected only when the user speaks the title of the given file in the mic. An audio amplifier circuit is also designed using LM386 to play multiple monotone as notifications to the user.
  • Up-Down scroll buttons are provided to scroll between the lines of a given text files.
  • The control logic unit consists of the MSP430F5659 microcontroller. This particular IC was chosen because of the large number of IO ports requirements as per the design of our system.

Software Description:

Software Flow Chart

Fig: Software Flow Chart

The software implementation of the system is based on a sequential logic. The initialization of the system includes initialization port pins and verifying operation of various sub systems. To read any E-Book, hardware interrupt has to be raised by the user, which transfers the control to the voice recognition module which then takes a user input. Based on this input, a given E-Book file is copied from the USB Mass Storage Device and converted to braille format and stored in the RAM space of the MSP. These converted characters are then sent to the LED Matrix Display.

Note: I have been unable to include the exact technical details (for eg. Implementation etc), as I don’t have the permission to release the same from some of my other team members.

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