The technology that allows blind people to gain access to the information contained on the Internet is getting steadily more affordable–text-to-voice technology is nearly ubiquitous now, at least. But if Siri’s robotic voice, slow speaking speed, and mispronunciations are annoying when you’re getting driving directions, imagine how frustrating they must be when you’re trying to enjoy, say, a piece of longform journalism, or the Wikipedia summary of season five of Breaking Bad. Unfortunately, braille printers are still expensive and can run you somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000.
That is, that’s what they cost when a fundraising letter landed in the mailbox of 13-year-old Shubham Banerjee’s parents, seeking to raise money for the blind. In this new two-minute ad to launch Intel’s new Meet the Makers campaign, we see how Banerjee began investigating how blind people read, and learned that braille printers can be cost-prohibitive. Rather than host a bake sale or something to raise money for a printer, he decided to just invent an entirely new kind of braille printer out of Lego bricks and Intel’s Edison chip for $350 worth of parts.
Banerjee–and Intel–are planning to bring the printer to market (this time without the Legos), at a cost of less than a quarter of most available braille printers. Intel tells the story more as a mini-doc than an ad for the Edison chip, just in case you needed an opportunity to feel bad about the things you were accomplishing at 13–or 30–compared to this kid.