Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Braille converter bridges the information gap

08.05.2008
A free, e-mail-based service that translates text into Braille and audio recordings is helping to bridge the information gap for blind and visually impaired people, giving them quick and easy access to books, news articles and web pages.

Developed by European researchers, the RoboBraille service offers a unique solution to the problem of converting text into Braille and audio without the need for users to operate complicated software.

“We started working in this field 20 years ago, developing software to translate text into Braille, but we discovered that users found the programs difficult to use – we therefore searched for a simpler solution,” explains project coordinator Lars Ballieu Christensen, who also works for Synscenter Refsnaes, a Danish centre for visually impaired children.

The result of the EU-funded project was RoboBraille, a service that requires no more skill with a computer than the ability to send an e-mail.

Users simply attach a text they want to translate in one of several recognised formats, from plain text and Word documents to HTML and XML. They then e-mail the text to the service’s server. Software agents then automatically begin the process of translating the text into Braille or converting it into an audio recording through a text-to-speech engine.

“The type of output and the language depends on the e-mail address the user sends the text to,” Christensen says. “A document sent to britspeech@robobraille.org would be converted into spoken British English while a text sent to textoparabraille@robobraille.org would be translated from Portuguese into six-dot Braille.”

The user then receives the translation back by e-mail, which can be read on a Braille printer or on a tactile display, a device connected to the computer with a series of pins that are raised or lowered to represent Braille characters.

RoboBraille can currently translate text written in English, Danish, Italian, Greek and Portuguese into Braille and speech. The service can also handle text-to-speech conversions in French and Lithuanian.

Christensen notes that the RoboBraille partners are constantly working on adding new languages to the service and plan to start providing Braille and audio translations for Russian, Spanish, German and Arabic. They are also working on making the service compatible with PDF documents and text scanned from images.

Up to 14,000 translations a day
At present, the service translates an average of 500 documents a day, although it could handle as many as 14,000. RoboBraille can return a simple text in Braille in under a minute while taking as long as 10 hours to provide an audio recording of a book.

As of January, the RoboBraille system had carried out 250,000 translations since it first went online.

The team have won widespread recognition for their work, receiving the 2007 Social Contribution Award from the British Computer Society in December while in April they were awarded the 2008 award for technological innovation from Milan-based Well-Tech.

“We initially started offering the service only in Denmark but to make it viable commercially we needed to broaden our horizons. Hence the eTen project which allowed us to involve other organisations across Europe in developing and expanding the service, not only geographically but also in terms of users,” Christensen says.

In addition to the blind and visually impaired, the service can also help dyslexics, people with reading difficulties and the illiterate. The project partners plan to continue to offer the service for free to such users and other individuals, while in parallel developing commercial services for companies and public institutions.

“Pharmaceutical companies in Europe will soon be required to ensure all medicine packaging is labelled in Braille and we are currently working with three big firms to provide that service,” Christensen explains. “Banks and insurance companies are also interested in using it to provide statements in Braille as too is the Danish tax office. In Italy there is interest in using it in the tourism sector.”

The RoboBraille team, which recently received an €1.1 million grant over four years from the Danish government, expect the service to be profitable within four or five years.

And although they are not actively seeking investors, they are interested in partnerships with organisations interested in collaborating on specific social projects.

RoboBraille was funded under the EU's eTEN programme for market validation and implementation.

Ahmed ElAmin | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/89717

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Ultra-precise chip-scale sensor detects unprecedentedly small changes at the nanoscale
18.01.2017 | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

nachricht Data analysis optimizes cyber-physical systems in telecommunications and building automation
18.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Algorithmen und Wissenschaftliches Rechnen SCAI

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A big nano boost for solar cells

18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Glass's off-kilter harmonies

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>