This project originally started as a student proposed idea to create some sort of device for the visually impaired. We originally wanted to develop some sort of entertainment system, similar to the gameboy. However, we decided to conduct customer discovery in order to pin point what would best fit their needs. As a result, we focused on a mechanical device that they were currently using to teach the student how to read/write and type braille.
The end goal of this project was to develop a working prototype. This device would provide students with a method of independent study that would be portable and affordable. The main functionality of the device would be to utilize audio to provide feedback to students so that they can learn the basics of braille.
We worked closely with the Center for the Visually Impaired to assess problem areas that students are facing. From there, we selected the area we felt would benefit the most with our help and started conducting interviews and contextual studies to pin point the exact pain points both teachers and students deal with.
After selecting the device we wanted to work on improving, we identified pain points that could be better managed or eliminated with the development of an electronic version. Those pain points are:
Students require the assistance of a teacher to provide feedback when using the device
Parents are unable to assist due to a lack of knowledge on braille themselves
The small pegs that represent the braille dots are easily misplaced
When learning to type braille, students are still using the wooden block and pegs, so are unable to practice what actual typing should feel like
For this project, I worked alongside my team to:
Conduct user research
Brainstorming potential solutions
In addition to that, I functioned as the web master for our team and helped the lead developer with coding the device.
The prototyping of the device started with the buttons that will be replacing the pegs. We needed something that would latch in the down position when learning to read/write, but wouldn't do so when typing (like keys on a keyboard). We went through several mechanical solutions, before deciding on an electrical one that was integrated with our microprocessor.
When a proof of concept was completed, we went back the the Center for the Visually Impaired for usability testing. From this, we learned about the spacing the buttons should be placed as well as the materials they would prefer so that it would make usage of the device better for younger students with small hands.