BrailleBox is a small piece of hardware that empowers users who are hard-of-sight to read the latest news articles in Braille. By Joe Birch.
On one side of my family runs a genetic condition known as Retinitis Pigmentosathis is essentially a condition that causes your eyesight to deteriorate over time. Often, this makes me think about how the technology that we create could actually make a difference to someones life and how we, as creators, could be a part of that.Because of this, a few years ago (using an Arduino Uno) I created a refreshable braille display that essentially took a text file and displayed the contents in the form of braille. Now that Android Things is available and I had picked up a kit from pimoroni, I decided to revisit this project and take it up a notch to create BrailleBox. In this article well be looking at what BrailleBox is, how it was constructed and the little amount of code that it took to create it.Wait, what is BrailleBox?
When I originally built the first edition of this with the Arduino Uno, it involved loading a text file into the program which was quite a manual processthis wasnt very smart (hey, it was only a prototype!). With the Internet of Things, you expect a device to be a bit smarter than thisso it was obvious that the the approach this time around needed to be automated, or somewhat less-manual.

Rather than the loading of this text file, I thought it would be a nice idea to display some form of informative data to the user. One of my favourite ideas that came to mind was to allow users to read some latest news articles in brailleI came across News API and this felt like the perfect API for me to get something up and running fast. Using this API I could fetch a collection of news articles from a desired source and simply them to the user.

- Initially, I originally had a single key requirement when it came to creating BrailleBox:

It needed to display a news article in the form of braille as requested by the device
But with a little bit of thinking, there were a few more things I had to think about in-order to improve the UX of the device:

- Should the device fetch the news automatically? This is automated, but I might not be at the device when it displays the article. This could also be quite alerting for the user if the device randomly starts clicking out of the blue.
- Instead of the above, the box could have a button which when pressed fetches and displays a news article in braille. Provided the box is placed in a location that the user is comfortable with, this will allow for.
- The rate at which the news article is read could be either too fast or too slow for users. To solve this, it would be worth adding a potentiometer to allow changing of the rate at which the letters within each of the words in the news article text are displayed. (I didnt actually end up putting that in this version, next time though )”