Kristina Tsvetanova: an iPad for the blind
Reading an e-mail, studying your course material online or simply reading an e-book. For most, those tasks are a piece of cake. However, what about the sight impaired? During her last year of university, Kristina Tsvetanova witnessed how hard it was for her blind friend to follow an online course. There are narrating apps, of course, but they always get slow and tiresome when the texts are long. Can you imagine listening to an entire book read by a metallic, soulless voice?
Her friend’s experience showed Tsvetanova the trouble faced by the blind when it comes to performing some of the simpler tasks and capitalizing on the huge amount of content provided by the Internet. According to the entrepreneur, lack of material (mainstream books for instance) in Braille discourages learning. The use of material by blind people has become one of the most advanced tools for learning and educating.
In order to tackle this challenge, this industrial engineer created BLITAB in 2014, a tablet capable of translating and converting to Braille different sorts of content, including maps and graphics. This iPad of sorts (to quote her own description) consists of two parts: The top screen uses a liquid technology that interprets and translates into small dots the information on the touch screen at the bottom. In this manner, the device translates into Braille the content found on the Internet, by changing the pattern on the screen. The user only has to swipe on the top screen to read the content.
Tsvetanova, who has been awarded several prizes, such as Innovator under 35 Europe 2017, by MIT Technology Review in Spanish and the EU Prize for Women Innovators by the European Commission, has conducted tests to positive results in more than 3,000 beta versions on 300 children from 34 countries. The first commercial model of the device is expected to cost approximately 450 euros, and shall mainly target final users, but BLITAB, as its creator says, wants to reach out to business and governments too, with a view to spreading the use of the device in offices and schools.
It could improve literacy among sight-impaired children, increase employment rates among blind adults, improve their quality of life... BLITAB implications could be huge. But, as she says, the actual challenge is to create a society free of exclusion, where nobody would need to be included anymore.