World’s first ever 3D printed Braille phone debuts on UK high-tech market

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The visually impaired may now exchange phone calls, thanks to the just released first of its kind Braille phone, constructed using 3D printing techniques by London-based firm OwnFone.

For those who can’t read Braille, the company promises to print raised whatever text it may be on the keypad.

The phone, currently only available in the UK, sells for £60 and according to its inventor Tom Sunderland, 3D printing the front and back of the gadget helped to minimize the costs.

“3D printing… provides a fast and cost-effective way to create personalised Braille buttons,” he says.

In 2012, OwnFone launched their initial product which was the world’s first partially 3D printed phone.

A year later, the company developed a special child-friendly version called 1stFone, a device of a small size, no bigger than a credit card. Back then users could program the buttons to suit their own purposes.

OwnFone’s new Braille phone is a combination of the two, with its small form and the colourful design left intact.

“The phone can be personalised with two or four Braille buttons which are pre-programmed to call friends, family, carers or the emergency services,” Mr Sunderland shares with the BBC.

The phone is now patent pending, as it’s the first one to boast a 3d printed keypad, suitable for both those who can read Braille and who can’t, for whom raised text popping up from the screen is a nice option, indeed.

While this is perhaps the first Braille phone that went on sale, the idea was also there in the past.

Just for instance, India-based start-up Kriyate built a prototype Braille-enabled smartphone in 2013, featuring a repressible Braille display and feedback controls (known as haptic touch) that make sounds or vibrate as certain commands come in.

Some experts cite the possible inefficiency of the device, as visually impaired users have increasingly been using Apple’s VoiceOver, its fresh most sophisticated version. In the functional terms, however, the newly released gadget is second to none. There are still those in the general public the release is somewhat redundant:

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