BrailleIO
A prototype of a Braille printer made using old CD/DVD drives
Outcome
Finalist in the Delhi Maker Fair 2016
Role
Physical Prototyping, UX Research
Team
Aman Agarwal, Amit Jaggi, Varnit Jain, Shubham Kumar
Tools
C, Arduino
Timeline (Jan '16 - May '16)

Research
4 weeks
Visited a school for the visually impaired and understood current education practices
Physical Prototyping
8 weeks
Used old CD/DVD drivers to create a 3 Axis CNC
Programming
6 weeks
Programmed H-Bridges to control servo motors and connect via Bluetooth
Research
In spring 2016, I took a course called "Introduction to Engineering Design". For the course project, we wanted to make a prototype of a braille printer. At that point, I was not aware of the term "User Research," yet I understood that to solve a problem, we needed to talk to the users. So we decided to visit a school for the visually challenged to understand the following:
We spoke to teachers and students in various learning stages to understand how they interacted with the printer and how we could help. There were two primary interest areas - low cost and accessibility.
Circuit Design
We knew that we needed to make a 3 Axis CNC for the braille printer. We decided to use servo motors for precision and power and decided to use H-bridges to control them via an Arduino. Here is our final circuit diagram:
Hacking
We wanted to keep the cost of the project to a minimum because the low cost was an important research finding and we weren't assigned any budget for the project. Hence, we went dumpster diving in a nearby electronics market. We went shop to shop and asked for discarded and broken CPUs, Laptops, PlayStations, etc. We wanted to use the small servo motors found inside the CD/DVD tray for our 3 Axis CNC. We were able to find three motors from the following electronics:
Proof of Concept
Here is a proof of concept where all three servos are seen working independently with commands from the serial input of an Arduino.
Prototype
The following video shows the final working 3 Axis CNC - a machine that can be used to control an object (the braille printing tip) along the X, Y, and Z-axis simultaneously.
To make the printer accessible, we allowed users to print braille using commands via Bluetooth. The picture below shows the final prototype used to print braille via smartphones.
If you would like to know more about this project, reach out to me at [varnit@gatech.edu] or [LinkedIn] .