The story of how world’s first self-learning Braille device ‘Annie’ was made

A discussion that started at a breakfast table between Aman Srivastava and three of his musketeers from BITS Pilani, Goa, soon took the shape of a exploration design. It ultimately led to a prototype far from the musketeers’s realm to imagine. That’s how Bengaluru- grounded Tinkerbell Labs developed “ Annie, ” the world’s first tone- literacy device for tutoring Braille to visually bloodied kiddies.
Although there has been a global drive towards inclusive education, Srivastava, 28, saw a gap between preceptors not adequately trained and the lack of the right tools demanded to give early education for the visually bloodied. “ When you educate your child ABC, the child does n’t learn ABC just because of your tutoring. It’s constantly shown the letters and rudiments far and wide, in every book, every placard and that was fully missing in case of tutoring children with visual impairments, ” he explains.
Srivastava says when he and his platoon started working on Annie in 2016, they set up that the traditional tutoring system for visually disabled scholars needed one- to- one hand- holding, which could be expansive in nature. “ We realised that we could make commodity that amplifies the effectiveness of a special preceptor by developing a result designed to feed to not one but multiple scholars at the same time. What would that world look like? ” he in an interview.
Srivastava describes Annie as a knowledge tool, a Wi- Fi- enabled electronic Braille device that helps a child with low vision to read, write and class. It has been designed around the conception of audio- tactile, which makes learning further interactive for a child with visual impairments. The device teaches Braille — an embossed reading system which allows eyeless or visually disabled scholars to read using their fritters — in English, Hindi or whichever original language they’re comfortable in. The idea is to cover all the introductory aspects of language first and formerly a child becomes knowledgeable, they use that knowledge of knowledge to learn other effects like vocabulary, rulings, appreciation,etc.
The design of Annie has gone through multiple duplications, which Srivastava says is a common practice in designing a product from the ground up. In the early performances of Annie developed in- house, the device had only one large Braille cell with audio but latterly it was decided to add a many standard cells. “ The design has evolved grounded on functional conditions, which is if you have to educate from classes 1 to 8, what all do you needhardware-wise? ” Srivastava says.
Srivastava recalls the platoon erected 50 to 60 prototypes across five to six performances before commercially starting planting Annie in 2018. Beforehand prototypes of Annie were fully white and the vibe was exactly the same as a washing machine from IFB. But during the design process, Srivastava and the platoon wanted Annie to go beyond that white colour. “ We really wanted Annie to have a sportful, various, press- type design. We were inspired by Xbox and Nintendo consoles of the history and the design worked for Annie, ” he adds. In fact, Annie’s middle portion, where the codifying module is, mimics a videotape game press. “ utmost assistive widgets have been boring, but we wanted to change that with Annie, ” says Srivastava.
Srivastava sees Annie as a full- fledged computer which can be streamlined just like a smartphone. The device controls the tactile display that children can touch and feel which also shows words, rudiments and letters to them. There are different buttons for different tasks, analogous to how a laptop works. Annie is a connected device and can be ever enabled — it is possible to keep track of scholars ’ performance.
But Annie is n’t just a tackle device, clarifies Srivastava. In fact, Annie has a tackle subcaste, a content subcaste, and a software subcaste to it. Srivastava and platoon worked with the UK’s Royal National Institute of Blind People( RNIB) as well as India’s National Institute for the commission of Persons with Visual Disabilities to develop the content which is as per different grades of Braille that works on Annie. The content, which consists of ABC literacy, harkening to rulings and games, is completely digitised and made interactive in nature. “ We had to design a new system where if a child goes wrong, Annie can correct them presently in real- time and also the progress is recorded and that can be given to a schoolteacher, parent or academy authority as and when needed, ” he says.
The perception towards assistive tech is changing snappily and further people, especially investors, are lodging for accessible platforms and tackle. “ People( Investors) want to invest in tackle, they now want to look at palpable effects, ” Srivastava says. “ When we originally started, everyone would ask to replicate the conception of( Annie) on a mobile phone app but the effects functionally needed for a child to learn ca n’t be put on a smartphone because a phone isn’t tactile in nature. ”
“ In tech, addition has to come to tech. It should be seen as yet another client problem and working leads to value creation and ultimately business, ” he says. For Srivastava, the acceptance of Annie — vended as Polly in the US — has opened new openings for the youthful incipiency in the west. TIME Magazine lately named Polly one of the stylish inventions in 2022. The tackle of Annie and Polly are the same — the only difference comes when it comes to the software and content designed keeping the US classes in mind.
Since its launch, as numerous as 400 units of Annie are over and running across seminaries. Just lately, Srivastava’s company inked a deal with the American Printing House for the Blind, anon-profit organisation, where Tinkerbell Labs will give 700 units of Annie every time for three times. Rather than dealing the tackle collectively, Srivastava makes plutocrat by planting Annie on the base design. “ It’s exactly like supplying and setting up computers in academy labs, ” he says. “ One Annie design costs around7.5 to 9 lakh depending on a academy, how numerous scholars are there, how numerous preceptors have to be trained and how numerous bias have to be stationed, ” he adds.
Srivastava and his platoon are presently working on a many new performances of Annie with further content. There are also plans to expand the indigenous language support on Annie, including Malayalam, Oriya, Gujarati, and Punjabi.

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