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ateneo braille system

From http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2008/mar/31/yehey/techtimes/20080331tech1.html:

Students introduce computer for the blind

Text-based Braille browser will enable the blind to do all the good things people use the Internet for

By Ike Suarez correspondent

A team of computer engineering majors, just graduated on March 29 from the Ateneo de Manila University, has developed a system to enable the blind to use computers to become Braille-literate and fully utilize the Internet the way other people do.

The Ateneo Braille System, as it is tentatively called, started beta testing on March 5. If hopes of its four-woman team of developers and faculty adviser are realized, it could be commercialized within 2009.

Engineer Tristan Calasanz, faculty adviser of the development team, told Tech Times that the full technical details of the project could not yet be revealed. Nevertheless, upon this correspondent’s prodding, he agreed to discuss its broad outlines.

The goal of the project is to help spread Braille literacy among the world’s blind people with affordable computers, according to him. He added such affordability could mean using obsolete PCs, even those running on old AT 286 processors, in cases where computers are a luxury to certain users.

Calasanz, who is both an electrical and mechanical engineer, said the Ateneo Braille System served as the capstone project of its developers in partial fulfillment of requirements for their bachelor of science degrees in computer engineering.

The four are: Giselle Mae Pacot, Karina Palileo, Clarisse Eileen Sabulao, and Galilee Semblante. Last year, they earned their first bachelors’ degrees in chemical engineering, they being part of this Jesuit-run university’s double-degree academic programs.

Calasanz, who is connected with the Ateneo School of Science and Engineering, said R&D (research and development) projects by its students are faculty-driven. Thus, faculty members suggest to graduating students possible projects to undertake.

He said he had already thought of the system as early as 2004. But it was only now a group of students had expressed interest in the concept.

Engineer Calasanz explained that literacy for the blind is based on touch, their ability to understand the textual meaning of the Braille dots when they feel them with their fingers.

Thus, the system’s keyboards have been developed by the team to be tactile-sensitive. So too are the special monitors, which replace cathode-ray tube or LCD monitors of typical PCs.

Engineer Calasanz said their specialized peripherals were proprietary intellectual properties whose full details would be made public in due time.

The computers use an Open Source platform for the operating system. But built on top of this are proprietary programs that make the tactile-sensitive peripherals work.

A proprietary program built on top of the operating system is also what allows the system’s users to connect to the Internet. This consists of a text-based Braille browser that “enables the blind to do all the good things people use the Internet for, such as sending and receiving e-mails, chatting, social networking, and surfing,” according to Calasanz. He said the system had other proprietary features such as decoders and multiplexes.

Calasanz said other developers could add options to the system such as voice recognition features. But the Ateneo developers deliberately avoided doing so, because such features would increase the system’s cost of acquisition for users.

Early this March, the Ateneo Braille Project, along with other capstone projects with commercial possibilities, were exhibited at the Ateneo campus in Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The exhibit formed part of the soft launch of the Ateneo Center for Innovation.

The center shall serve as clearinghouse for investors and would-be buyers interested in Ateneo R&D projects to meet developers and arrange for possible commercialization.

The university has now adopted the high-technology business development model pioneered by Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and other leading institutes of higher learning abroad. The same model has been credited for the development of Silicon Valley, the world-renowned IT hub in California.


  • I'm so freaking proud of those who participated in this research mainly because I know all of them hehe.
  • aspiringentrepraspiringentrepr PEx Veteran ⭐⭐
    I am very proud of one of the first user of this - Roselle Ambubuyog

    A Valedictorian of the Year, BS Mathematics, Summa ***** Laude - Both Eyes Blind.

    We have the same course but I really salute her!
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