PRE2019 3 Group4 Hable

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Hable Questions & Answers

1. How does the Hable system work in its entirety, i.e. how is it connected to the cellphone and how are the braille cells read by the system? Is the Bluetooth protocol similar to that of for example a wireless Bluetooth keyboard?

The device/product does not read Braille, the blind person only enters Braille an input device. Our old model contains 8 buttons. You connect the device with Bluetooth, it is irrelevant which operating system you are using (IOS/smartphone), you can change modus. At the outside there are a few buttons of rotation meant to support for typing. Talkback is a system that is on any smartphone device which support blind people which pronounce anything the system does. This is in the form of audio. For instance, it pronounces any letter or word of a sentence. So if you activate Talkback, it tells you immediately where you are. Like it is an auditory cursor which support them in navigating (which is also implemented in the system). You will hear what you see. The idea for implementation was to implement the device at the back of the phone. However, this might be inconvenient once you want to put it in your pocket. Therefore, Bluetooth allows to use the services of the device while you have earplugs in, so you don’t need to connect the device at the back at your phone. The device contains a battery which has a lifespan of 1 week.

2. What were the experiences of blind People once you were testing your device on them?

Blind people acknowledge that the devices that they use to read are quite expensive, at least it will take them 1000 euros, then they will have a small 16-point device which they consider as unpleasant. A word for instance might have 8 letters, this can take a lot of time if they have to each word separately. Blind people request at least a 40-point (Braille cells) device in order to read properly. The costs for these devices are a quite expensive (thousands of euros). Our project focuses on the input of devices which blind people experience as unpleasant assuming that the output of audio is correct/pleasant. How many people are using your device currently? Currently in Holland, there are about 50 people that are using this device [old model] daily. However, this model serves as a test phase. Holland is too small for a project like ours, 10% of the blind people is capable to understand Braille and in Holland this is slightly higher, but in the coming years our team is going to visit other countries in Europe as well as America (in which 15% is capable to read Braille).

3. How is the design developed?

This model is created by a contractor which had connections in China. Mainly due to the high production costs and especially because we needed 25 devices which is completely not profitable. One device like this one will already take 200 euros. Furthermore, we had contacts in Belgium which had a good 3D-printer and provided quality products. In the Innovation Space, prototypes are indeed created, but the materials have been provided by foreign contractors.

4. What happens when you make an error (e.g. typing error)?

You hear what you are typing. There are two function buttons on the device. One is backspace which you can use to go back and the other button is enter (to press enter). So once you make a typing error, you hear what you typed and you can press backspace. We are working at a function due to these mistakes in which the sentence that you typed, will be read again by one single click. In this way you know immediately what you did wrong and you can navigate to this spot quite easily. Did blind people experience your keyboard as quite weird compared to other Braille keyboards that were invented earlier? People had to get used to it for a while, but they get along relatively quickly. Approximately, it will take them half a minute to get used to it. For navigating, this takes them more time. This takes them approximately a week.

5. How do you learn to use a device like yours to a blind person?

A marketing team would test this by providing a lot of devices or products to a person and let him test it. The marketing team will measure their experiences and provide a manual to see if it would work. However, this is very costly especially for a team like ours. For us, we are using Talkback which can read the entire manual for them at their own speed. Once they are still stuck, they can navigate to the manual quite easily. Currently, we do not have a manual that has been built into the device, in such a way that a person gets to learn to use each function of the device, a kind of gamification. However, this can be a future implementation. Furthermore, people like to be part of a selection group / community in which they can explain each other their difficulties or help each other.

6. Can a blind person independently operate the device without any support?

Yes, this should be possible. During our first test, we provided blind people with our device without telling what the device does or is. They quickly noticed that the device had 8 buttons which intuitively brings them to the thought that the device is related to Braille. The device is very small, so they would not use it for their computer. Therefore, they would quickly realize that the device is meant for their smartphone. Blind people are very innovative, they are using a variety of technologies in their homes, such as Alexa. Technologies is really useful for them and it really brings improvement into their lives. So they are quite open for new technologies.

7. What research have you done concerning Braille learning? Are their methods that you used to make Braille-learning easier?

Currently in Holland, it is 1 on 1 with a Braille teacher. The main reason, which is also the most complicated part to replace by a device, is that people might lose faith in learning Braille. Braille learning is quite difficult in the beginning, 20% of the blind people community is unable to experience haptic feelings and 80% is capable. It is also a quite slow process. So, it is important to design a device which give people trust and courage to learn Braille and to show him progress in his learning. Furthermore, Braille learning in a group is also inefficient due to the fact that people can make many mistakes and can distracted by noise. According to Braille teachers, it takes 150 hours to learn Braille at a decent level (even professional level), however it is quite expensive.

The reason why only 10% is capable to read Braille, despite the technologies people perceive learning Braille as a severe threshold. Once you need Braille, then you are really blind/handicapped. Then you should accept that you are really blind. In this case, people are more likely to read texts really slowly in order to get a feeling that they are not really blind, then accept that they are really blind by reading Braille. This feeling is hard to remove from this community. They actually need to be stimulated and provided by the many uses of Braille and their benefits on their lives. We think that we can solve this by making the device or Braille learning ‘popular/interesting/modern’. Currently they look really outdated and gives you easily the impression that these people really have problems. By using colors or informal sounds, it can be already more modern.

8. What do you think about the statement: ‘children that experience visual impairments do have better senses in touch (haptic feelings) and are more capable to learn braille compared to older people’.

It is correct that is harder to learn Braille when you are older, you have less haptic feelings in your fingers, but there is still a high chance that you are capable to learn Braille even when you are 20 years old. Once you are older than 40 years old, this ability drastically reduces, but once you have learned it, to chance of unlearning Braille is relatively low when you are still using it frequently.

9. What are the costs of a Braille cell?

Due to the fact that only a few companies are capable to produce Braille cells, the production costs will lay about 50 euros per Braille cell. For this reason, the costs for the devices are quite expensive.

10. With Braille input, do you press pins that are up or is it the opposite?

It is the case in which you press pins that are up in.

11. How do you implement gamification for blind people?

Besides Anni (other project that used gamification), many blind people play games often. Even though they absolutely fail in playing these games properly, by using sound they can be notified in which level they are or if they are walking etc. So sound can be very useful to implement gamification. However you should do this in collaboration with blind people, they know what they like.

American Printing House for Blind provides a system that learns children to code by using music (instead of for-loop, it makes a sound). This is very effective to learn programming for blind people.

12. How do you take into account older people that experience difficulties learning Braille and are not used to technologies?

This is something that is not implemented yet into our device. The most sad part is that 80% can be prevented from being unable to read Braille. Almost 50% of the blind community lives in India in which there are a few doctors (eye) so there is quite a lack of support in that country. In our future design, we are going to develop a universal system that makes it more easy to learn Braille for any person of any age.

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