Dotty is an independent development designed entirely by PEGA D&E. Unlike most of the IT products on the market, Dotty serves a different purpose and a specific market; Dotty is made to assist the visually impaired to learn braille in an easier and faster way. In order for Dotty to succeed, more in depth market research was required and a wider cross-industry alliance was formed. In this project, both PEGATRON and PEGA D&E provided their utmost experience in product development, design spirit, and mechatronics technology to help those who are in need. In a product-oriented sense, Dotty assists the visually impaired in their pre-school period or anyone who is new to braille; in a general sense, Dotty shortens the gap between the visually impaired and technology.
China has the highest number of people who suffer from visual impairment. Almost five million people in China suffer from the condition, making up 18% of visually impaired patients worldwide.
The environment that visually impaired patients spend their early years in greatly affects their personality development; most pre-school children who suffer from vision impairment spend these times at home. The impairment is one of the factors that affect development; however, it is not an absolute factor. Physical and mental development is built up by environment and education, which enables children to become outgoing, sociable, and to have an eagerness to be part of society.
Visually impaired children normally attend school around the ages of six to eight, and need to spend at least six months to learn Braille. Braille uses the same system as Chinese Pinyin, and requires a special writing board, pens, paper and an alphabet chart to help students learn braille. Students learn by corresponding the Pinyin pronunciations with dotted alphabets; therefore it is extremely important for the pronunciations to be precise.
The proper way to write Braille is to dot the words on the paper from right to left. When students read Braille, they flip the dotted paper over and read the paper with their hands from left to right. In order to learn Braille, children not only need to learn the original form of Braille, but also its mirror image; this process often creates confusion for younger children. Another challenge is the amount of force needed to imprint dots onto the paper, which is even harder for weaker and smaller children who already have difficulty holding the heavy Braille pen.
In the learning process, technology is very important as a tool to assist our study, but for children who are visually impaired, learning how to use technology is another challenging adjustment. In July of 2011, PEGA D&E Shanghai Department collaborated with Shanghai School for the Blind to solve these problems. We researched the difficulties these children have and began to analyze the problems, hoping to use their design experience and mechatronics abilities to come up with a solution. The goal was to simplify childrens' learning process for Braille and to reduce their fear of using technology, creating a happy and enjoyable learning experience.
We created a card sized pronunciation device, with a body and buttons made of rubber and plastic. The user can easily identify the positions of the buttons and use them to simulate writing dots on paper. The front side simulates writing, while the back simulates reading the words; this method of learning Braille is easier and more efficient compared to traditional methods.
After powering up the device and choosing English or Chinese mode, the six-button device is ready to help children learn. Dotty is equipped with LED lights under each button for better position recognition and so that stimulations to the eye can increase ability to recognize words. Finally, the last step is to push the pronounce button to identify the sound of the word just input.