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Braille Labeler

PALO ALTO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Imagine a world living in darkness -- no colors, no shapes, just black. That's reality for more than a million blind people in the United States. Now, a school project could make their lives a whole lot easier. It's one of those, "Wow. Why didn't I think of that?" ideas.

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This is what the last 10 years of Kathleen Blake's world looked like. A hereditary eye disease robbed her of her sight, making even simple chores almost impossible.

"I ended up having to leave my job and stay home," Blake told Ivanhoe.

Now, mechanical engineer students at MIT and Stanford hope their class project will make life easier for visually impaired people.

"We call it the six dot, and that's after the six dots that go on any Braille character," Adelaide Calbry-Muzyka, a mechanical engineer at Stanford University, in Palo Alto, Calif., told Ivanhoe.

Karina Pikhart and Adelaide Calbry-muzyka are part of the team who developed the Braille Labeler.

"As soon as people heard there was potential for a labeling tool to be out there, everybody seemed to go bananas for it," Pikhart recalled.

"You can label all sorts of things in your day-to-day life -- things you can't tell apart just by feeling them, which is when you really need to label something in Braille -- cans of soup, or CDs, or notebooks to take to school or work," Calbry-Muzyka said.

Every Braille character is a combination of six raised dots. This labeler uses the same type of Braille keyboard.

"So if I wanted to say this was my algebra notebook, I would type algebra," Calbry-Muzyka explained.

Current labelers on the market are big, heavy, not as functional, and not electro-mechanical. That's like driving a car without power steering. Pikhart and Calbry-Muzyka say they knew they were on to something when a young boy came up to their booth at a technology conference for the blind.

"This one boy he just was there for 10 minutes typing out this label," Pikhart recalled. "He ended up typing out a label that was 2 feet long. He said, 'Dear mom, I love you. Thank you so much for bringing me to this conference.'"

Proving this little device gives the visually impaired a new tool to help label and see their world better.

"Every once in a while I think, 20 years down the road, if I walk into a grocery store and see someone making a label, 'Wow. That's really cool,'" Pikhart said.

The Braille Labeler is set to hit store shelves this year. It could cost $200 when available, but that's half the price of current Braille label makers.

The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

Karina Pikhart
Stanford, CA 94305
(818) 399-7271

Lois Smith
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
Santa Monica, CA 90406
(310) 394-1811

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