Keyboards normally make excellent computer input devices, but for the 286 million of us that are visually impaired and 39 million people that are entirely blind, things become much more difficult. Braille is available to help with reading, but unless one has the entire keyboard layout memorized, using that as an input device can be difficult.
For a solution to this problem, Dhiraj Kumar Sahu has come up with a Braille keyboard specifically designed for the blind. Instead of using, for instance, a normal keyboard with Braille pattern added to the keycaps, this six-button interface lets users form each dot of a Braille character. A slide switch is also added to alternate between letter and number modes. The Arduino Uno-based unit is able to speak characters stored on an SD card as they are typed, giving out audio feedback in the same way that one looks at a monitor when typing.
The idea seems solid for day-to-day use, and one could even see such a device employed to help train those on this lettering convention. Interestingly, a similar concept known as a keyset or chorded keyboard has been explored as a general use input device, and the original keyboards for producing Braille and commercial versions available today feature a similar arrangement of buttons. Of course, the original version from the late 1800s didn’t have the same kind of spoken feedback as seen in the video below.