Tipo : Braille Smartphone Keypad

A keyboard accessory for a smartphone for training, and typing in braille

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After working with a user group of visually impaired on earlier version's of braille keyboards, it was highlighted that there is no comprehensive way of typing into a smartphone. Current software solutions are too slow, do not give good tactile feedback or just are a pain to type with. Even though there are many soft keyboards available, we couldn't find someone in our study group who uses any of the soft keyboards.

In our study conducted, out of 10 people, 8 use "Feature Phones", and the rest had smartphones but would take the help of a colleague or family member to type. It was the tactile buttons and not the cost that caused them to use feature phones.

Thus it was concluded that it is necessary to have a tactile keyboard in order for more visually impaired to use a smartphone.

The other challenge is faced by those who have recently lost their sight, and do not know how to use braille. A fast and efficient way in which this group of people can learn br

The two primary goals of this project are:

1) Create a tactile interface in a small form factor that can be used in conjunction with a smartphone.

2)A Smartphone based Braille trainer.

The intention is to create a better interface for a smartphone for the visually challenged.

The secondary goals are:

1) Opensource Electronics

2) Cost effective BOM

3)3D Printintable design


All electroncis and PCB source files for version 1

RAR Archive - 337.01 kB - 10/15/2017 at 17:32



Arduino Firmware for Tipo

RAR Archive - 24.27 kB - 10/15/2017 at 17:04



Top Enclosure STL file. Print 1 time.

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 101.74 kB - 10/11/2017 at 16:40



Button STL file. Print 6 times

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 45.88 kB - 10/11/2017 at 16:40



Bottom Enclosure STL file. Print 1 time

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 84.85 kB - 10/11/2017 at 16:40


View all 7 files

View all 6 components

  • User Research Feedback Summery

    Vijay11/20/2018 at 07:39 0 comments

    Tipo Braille Keyboard Phase 1 Project Plan

    Feedback from latest user test:

    1. Main keys (6 keys) should be placed at equal distance and perpendicular to each other(in a straight line).
    2. Buttons get stuck into the panel while punching, button quality to be better
    3. Keypunching registers are not regular. Sometimes, the keys are not captured accurately
    4. Separate buttons required for space, delete and enter keys
    5. 4-way navigation keys required programmed with swipe left and swipe right features
    6. USB port to be replaced with Bluetooth (4.0 or higher)
    7. Keys can be smaller, square shaped
    8. The texture of the front of the device can be made non-slippery
    9. Size of the device to be reduced to suit portrait mode
    10. Silicone material to be pasted on the edges of the device
    11. Removable tool to be affixed on the device
    12. Optional: volume rocker buttons to be installed

    Design Changes being considered for next prototype considering feedback:

    1. Main 6 Braille keys placed in a equidistant rectangular grid
    2. Replacing existing silicone buttons with higher quality buttons

    3. Separate buttons for Space, Enter and Backspace
    4. 5 way navigation + OK/Enter key :
    5. Bluetooth operation instead of USB
    6. Designed for Portrait mode use case
    7. Volume rocker switch to be added:

  • First User Tests and Feedback on Tipo v0.2

    Hanoz Patel01/12/2018 at 07:36 0 comments

    I visited a local NGO for the blind to carry out the first user prototype testing, upon their invitation. The test was carried out by people with and without prior knowledge of Braille. This is what we observed:

    1. When the device is attached vertically, along the length of the phone, it is a little inconvenient to grip it.
    2. The placement of the keypad causes a little inconvenience in the wrist while gripping the device.
    3. Stray touches to the touchscreen while typing.
    4. The space key is a positive differentiator.
    5. Buttons need to have a stronger actuator.

    The feedback we received from the user group was very informative for us. Here are the excerpts:

    1. Suggested incorporation of means of navigating the smartphone through the keypad.
    2. Suggested option of switching between Braille typing and any other popular mode like T9 or QWERTY keypad for people who have recently lost their vision.

    We will be looking to cover more institutions like these to get assistance on improving the prototype through more user tests. 

  • Prototype Development for User Tests

    Hanoz Patel01/12/2018 at 07:12 0 comments

    Consolidating on the Hackaday Prize recently received for the Best Product Design and 5th Place overall at the Hackaday SuperCon 2017, we have been working on developing more prototypes for the purpose of carrying out demonstration and user testing. This is done to gain some valuable feedback to carry out improvisation and additions, if necessary, to the functionality of the product. There was a slight change made to the prototype design to accommodate the 16 MHz oscillator within the enclosure we got 3-D printed. A slit was created at the back for the oscillator to provide preference to functionality over ergonomics in this iteration of the prototype. 

  • Tipo Wins Best Design and 5th Place @ The Hackaday Prize

    Vijay11/27/2017 at 07:17 1 comment

    You heard that right! I just got back to work after my [Vijay} trip to the US to attend the Hackaday SuperCon 2017.  Last couple of weeks feel like a blur, dealing with the overwhelming emotions and getting over jet lag twice! [India is almost on the other side of the earth] Thank you to all the Judges and Hackaday for this opportunity!

    In case you missed it, here is the Ceremony: 

    I've gotten some great response back home. @Shree Kumar has modified his open source smartphone based on his KiteBoard project ( to integrate Tipo's keyboard directly inside!

    I'm looking for a couple of full-time interns to work on the project in Bangalore India, since everyone else on the team has been working part time, and we need to accelerate its deployment in the market.

    If you are from Bangalore, India, we need someone who:

    - Is well versed with Arduino programming and good programming practices. 

    - Can talk to people from other organisations, work with the visually impaired, take feedback.

    -Operations and Project Management. Interfacing with vendors etc.

    -PCB Design, 3D Prining, CAD Design slillz would be nice.

    Let me know if you are interested!

  • Low volume batch for user testing / Off to Hackaday SuperCon !

    Vijay11/08/2017 at 10:01 0 comments

    @Prashant Sharma is working on building 25 keypads for lab testing with a user group from UNESCO and Technology For The People .

    They have a very detailed process and documentation procedure when it comes to projects for the disabled and are putting a team of volunteers together to help us with it.  With this, they say getting stakeholders from various NGO's and Government will be easier since the value proposition is well documented, as well as will give us detailed feedback to focus future development, and not chase every feature request we have been getting. 

    The PCB designs are slightly updated, for making assembly easier with all components on one side, and button pads on the other ( as opposed to everything being on one side). I Will be updating the source files once the boards are assembled and tested. 

    I am flying to Pasadena day-after to attend  the Hackaday Superconferance on 10th, 11th and 12th. Looking forward to meeting amazing people and hope we get somewhere in the Hackaday prize !

    See you there!

  • An eye-opening experience!

    Vijay10/30/2017 at 11:11 2 comments

    Because of the national coverage that Tipo has gotten, Many visually impaired have been getting in touch with me, and I wanted to write a log sharing some of the latest feedback:

    1) The Blind "Baba" :

    in India, a baba is a religious godman . One of the followers of a bind baba got in touch saying that, the baba struggles to update his social media, and needs help to do it every time. He uses a feature phone for convenience but wants to be self sufficient by using a smartphone. 

    The tactile buttons were a breeze to use, and made him really happy. The problem is that he wanted to use Tipo in the regional language of Kannada.

    Adding multi language support will be pushed up the priority list of to do tasks. 

    2) The Blind lawyer:

    I have never seen someone so happy and excited in my life. It bought a tear to my eye. He expressed how important such a device can be for the visually impaired who want to to move up in  their career by being self sufficient, and also to learn and be proficient in braille . He was happy to know that where are plans to code Tipo for contracted braille, as he is pretty advanced in braille. 

    He expressed the need for some sort of navigational buttons to have move the cursor along sentences and paragraphs. 

    He will be putting me in touch with the educated/working strata of the visually impaired, to get more people involved in testing. 

    One another interesting feedback he gave, was that, we should charge a decent price for this device, as it is useful to the visually impaired, and needs to be respected. He gave me examples of some other products that had been abused because they were being given out for free. 

  • We got featured in national news!

    Vijay10/23/2017 at 14:16 0 comments

    Tipo is getting lots of attention, and a great deal of institutions and people are going to get involved. Hopefully this makes tipo into a world class product that creates immense  value for those who need it. 

  • Next Steps

    Vijay10/20/2017 at 15:29 0 comments

    I've been getting amazing feedback about Tipo from all around the world! People seem to be really excited about this, and I underestimated its impact initially. Its is amazing to know that something like this isnt already in the market!

    Some of the things that came up in feedback:

    1) Faster typing by directly switching between characters, instead of leaving all buttons.

    Currently, one will need to leave all the buttons after pressing a button combination to register a character. Apparently, in modern braille typewriters, you can just go from one combination to another, without letting go of all the keys. This would effectively double the speed of typing. This was highlightened during some of the initial testing we did as well. 

    It might be a challenge to implement on the code, getting the timing of the button combination presses right, but is a great challenge and goal to work towards. If anyone has ideas, please pitch in!

    2) incorporating grade 2 and grade 3 braille for faster typing.

    There are a number of different versions of Braille:

    • Uncontracted or Grade 1, which consists of the 26 standard letters of the alphabet and punctuation. It is only used by people who are first starting to read Braille.
    • Contracted or Grade 2, which consists of the 26 standard letters of the alphabet, punctuation and contractions. The contractions are employed to save space because a Braille page cannot fit as much text as a standard printed page. Books, signs in public places, menus, and most other Braille materials are written in Contracted Braille.
    • Grade 3, which is used mainly in personal letters, diaries, and notes, and also in literature to a limited extent. It is a kind of shorthand, with entire words shortened to a few letters. There is no official standard for this version of Braille.

    The next step would be to at-least include grade-2 braille in the firmware. 

    Braille contractions and abbreviations

    3) Vibration motors under each button to help in Braille training 

    For someone who has gone blind, vs born blind, learning braille can he an effort. Tipo can function as a braille training assistant as well.  Using vibration motors under the individual buttons, individuals can learn braille as well. 

  • It Works!

    Vijay10/15/2017 at 17:30 0 comments

    Second prototype of the braille keyboard. My braille is a little rusty, but i'm sure someone experienced in braille can type twice as fast.

    By setting "Talk Back" to ON in the accessibility settings, you can get the phone to repeat what you type

  • Assembly Time!

    Vijay10/14/2017 at 12:39 0 comments

    Its time to put it all Together! I will posting a better "how-to" in the instructions section after the project is done. I will be just covering instructions on assembly here.


    1) Silicone button pads

    The parts I ordered from Ali-express didn't arrive on time, so i had to resort to desperate measures. I broke open a calculator, and salvages its button pads.

    2) Cutting and alignment:

     I cut the silicone pads into small section to git on to the small form factor, and not come in between some of the passive electronics on the PCB.

    The buttons have projects on them that align with depressions on the silicone pads. In case you have a different SKU of silicone button pads, you might need to change the CAD files of the buttons I have uploaded for best results. 

    3)Closing Up

    The PCB should align along with the pads, thanks to my mastery in CAD ;P

    Close the other half of the clamp-shell.

View all 17 project logs

  • 1

    This documentation describes Open Hardware and is licensed under the

    CERN OHL v. 1.2.

    You may redistribute and modify this documentation under the terms of the

    CERN OHL v.1.2. ( This documentation is distributed



    PARTICULAR PURPOSE. Please see the CERN OHL v.1.2 for applicable


  • 2
    Get Everything Together

    You will need:

    - Male to Female jumper cables

    - AVR programmer (  I used Pocket AVR programmer from sparkfun )

    - USB micro cable for the programmer

    -USB OTG cable

    -All 3D printed parts

    -M3 x 10 CSK screws

    -Silicone button pads

  • 3
    Upload Bootloader

    The brains of Tipo is basically the same AVR 32u4 chip used in the Arduino Leonardo. We use the arduino leonardo bootloader to make programming easier, via the USB type A directly. 

    Use the pocket AVR programmer to upload the Arduino Leonardo bootloader. This guide should help:

View all 7 instructions

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discapacidad5 wrote 12/04/2021 at 21:56 point

help me to develop low-cost braille display

Of 40 million blind people in the world, only 10% can read and write braille.

One of the primary reason for this is because braille hasn't yet found its jogging in the digital era, due to the sheer cost of such devices, as well as the affordability matrix of the visually impaired.

Low-cost braille displays have been sought after for quite a while with no avail.

Commercially available braille displays employ peizo-electric actuated pins, which are very expensive.

Due to the sheer expense of braille technology, and the scarce availability of books in braille, the medium is slowly falling out of favor. But many agree that braille literacy is paramount for the empowerment of the blind for education and employment.

It's amazing how expensive assistive technology is. A small flagil braille display costs more than $ 1,200 USD and a good quality one goes from $ 3,000 to $ 6,000. That is why I am developing an open source project. This is by no means a finished product. Being an open source project, I hope others will improve the design. In the near future, with the help of volunteers, Brailletouch will reduce the cost of a braille display by 90% and allow anyone who is visually impaired or deafblind to read and write braille, as well as use a computer or mobile device efficiently. and without noise. So if you know someone, if you are a creator, if you are curious or if you want to help, feel free to enter our repository and help me build a community around Brailletouch.

The encoder is practically the heart of the braille display. Most commercial braille displays have 40 or 80 braille cells. Since the most expensive on a braille display is braille cells, which cost more than $ 35 each, we are designing a new form of braille display with 40 virtual cells and a single physical braille cell, reducing most of the cost. . We are talking about a braille cell that can be made from 3D printed parts, I designed a different system. Instead of activating 40 cells at the same time and applying all the power to 40 physical cells, Brailletouch uses a physical encoder and a virtual braille display of 40 touch sensors placed in a matrix. In this way, the braille text is gradually displayed in a single braille cell as the virtual cells are touched. Parts can be easily printed.

My braille display design succeeds in reducing the cost of a braille display by over 90%. Currently, a braille screen has a cost between $ 1200 and $ 6000, being $ 1200 the smallest and most fragile, my proposal seeks to achieve a braille screen that can be manufactured between 100 and $ 150, it could even be much cheaper when making production mass. Basically, we could have a screen at an affordable price for all visually impaired and deafblind people.

My project is open source. The idea is to make available to anyone anywhere in the world a code that can be modified and improved, files for 3D printers to print their parts and an assembly manual, so that anyone can download, print, assemble and use

Its development is based on an esp32 microcontroller. (What is open source hardware)

I do this because I am looking for support if you can support or meet someone who can support with the following needs:

Microcontroller Programmer

Diceño in 3d

Handling the HiD protocol (we need to create the code for the Esp-32 to communicate with the breille HID)

Language translator

Documentation development

Economical support

Any company or organization that finances the project.

If you can support some of these needs or know someone who can do it or an organization that can financially finance the project, I would be very grateful if you could contact me at +584129994784


  Are you sure? yes | no

shamwow wrote 06/08/2018 at 23:44 point

Good project, however, the PCB and case do not match up. I cannot find a file for the new PCB design. Would like to put this project together. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Shree Kumar wrote 11/13/2017 at 12:04 point

Congrats on the prize! This is a really cool project.  

I am integrating this into my modular smartphone kit project at kiteboard dot io.

  Are you sure? yes | no

qquuiinn wrote 06/29/2017 at 22:32 point

xiaomi mi4c is the best :D

  Are you sure? yes | no

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