Get Brailling is a project that grew out of a weekend hackathon and into a nice project. During development we had a couple of tinkerers building hardware and programming, while our designer made some nice representative material and conducted user interface studies. Our presentation video gives a quick glimpse of what this is about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ORZSux3MPM
Using the Arduino USB HID libraries to make the keyboard saved us a lot of trouble!
PCB milled at the FabLab
The University was kind enough to let us mill some PCBs for the prototypes. It's just some buttons, resistors and a pin header
Lasercut MDF fronts
Having a prototype that looks somewhat good but still hacky "techno-rustique" really made an impression on the testing group.
As with many projects, this one is currently a free-time project. When we started this all at a weekend hackathon, the staff was urging us to make a business plan, do market research and lots of things that are considered "non-hacky". From a business point of view that makes sense, why would you make a product that doesn't have a business case?
Especially hardware development and casing design is time consuming and cost money. There is often a lot of non-refundable investment that has to be made and even then the product development might take a years time. When applying for grants, incubators, startup factories, etc. we had to make budget estimations in the hundreds of thousands of Euros to make our case. We had to make estimations of production costs for thousands of units which is very hard at the stage when all you have is a Leonardo.
This was never supposed to compete with the giants. The idea for GetBrailling was to make a lightweight, affordable solution for visually impaired mobile users. We hoped for a selling price of 50€ but that can't be taken seriously when the competition is in the 1000€ feature stuffed desktop keyboards for the blind that include displays, text-to-speech, etc. Obviously our product will seem worse than the competition or a straight out hoax.