A technology company is hoping to bring braille back from decline after inventing the first ‘Kindle for the blind’.
The Canute, which contains over 1,000 cogs, pinions and mechanical connectors, turns text downloaded from a memory stick into braille.
The developers say it is the world’s first multi-line digital Braille e-reader and will be available by the end of this year for between £600-£700.
Blind readers will be able to read nine lines of Braille with 40 characters on each line - the equivalent of half a page on a regular Kindle.
When it has been read the user touches a button for the next page.
It has been developed by Bristol Braille Technology whose Managing Director Ed Rogers says it will work in much the same way as a regular e-reader.
He said: “We’re keeping it simple - you read a page, press a button at the bottom to go forward a page, back a page or return to the library menu.”
Readers will be able to access books on the Canute through easily accessible braille library services such as RNIB Library, which provide books in a digital braille format, or by using online braille conversion programmes.
Ed, 29, added: “There’s often a long delay between print publication and the transcribed braille release, and certainly not all volumes will be available from braille library services.
“However if you have an e-book file you can automatically convert it to braille format yourself, using online programmes such as robobraille.org, and download it to your Canute.”
He described the internal mechanism, which relies on motors and gears to refresh the page, as “almost like a very intricate clock, and very Heath Robinson.”
He said: “No-one has ever successfully done something like this before - and we’re looking to sell it for about £600-£700, which is somewhere in the region of 20 times cheaper per character than any existing digital braille.
“I think only one other person once attempted the multi-line braille technology we’re working on, but it was going to end up costing about $50,000.”
Ed and his engineers have been working on the Canute since 2012, and have collaborated closely with community group Braillists to test a number of prototypes.
“We develop the technology and iron out the errors, but it’s the people at Braillists who have made all the user suggestions, such as where and how big the buttons should be,” he said.
Now on its 11th prototype, the Canute’s final size is 14x14 inches and approximately two and a half inches thick - the ideal size to fit in a rucksack or laptop bag to take on the move.
The braille type it uses is very solid, similar to braille that would be found on signs as opposed to conventional softer paper braille.