Article on a multiline refreshable braille display in development in the UK

Hello everyone.

I thought this article was fascinating.

Thanks also to the list member that pointed me towards another refreshable braille project which I will look into and post.

I always love receiving articles of interest to our members.

Thank you for them.

19th of May, 2015

World’s first multiline Braille ebook reader demonstrated in Bristol and

Bristol Braille Technology CIC, a not-for-profit company operating out of
the Bristol Hackspace, has completed the first feature complete prototype of
Canute. Canute will be

the world’s first multiline refreshable Braille ebook reader

, which will cost less than a Braille typewriter and a fraction of the price
of existing single line displays.

It is intended that Canute will help reverse the decline in Braille literacy
by bringing digital Braille within financial reach of the average user for
the first time.

Canute, a stand-alone refreshable Braille ebook reader for 440, being rolled
out to testers over June

On Monday the 18th of May Canute Mk6 was demonstrated to the Bristol
Braillists blind advocacy group in the Pervasive Media Studio, who were able
to choose between and read a dozen novels that had been preloaded onto the

On Tuesday the 19th Canute Mk6 was demonstrated again to the Information
Technologists company in Stationers’ Hall. During the meeting BBT also
demonstrated Canute’s ability to double up as an embosser, which means one
can emboss notes, shopping lists, recipes or letters directly off Canute’s

On both occasions the feedback was very positive and the device was deemed
ready to be tested by users in their own homes. Over June BBT will therefore
be working with the Bristol and Reading Braillists groups to ensure Canute
units are tested by dozens of blind users.

Emulator and software Open Sourced on GitHub – Braillists ready to expand

The Canute uses radically different internal mechanisms from the
prohibitively expensive existing Braille displays, which allows it to have
the unique format of 28 characters per line over 4 lines.

It uses off the shelf motors and plastic components from laser cutters. It
runs off Open Sourced ebook software that can be freely changed so users can
add their own functionality, adapt the user interface to their tastes.

There are already blind users and sighted engineers from around the world
who have expressed an interest in adapting it to various different use cases
and languages.



It’s something phenomenal. I’m already in love with this, and I’m not really
a Braille person. I gave up Braille many years ago… but this would
definitely intrigue me… I’m completely blown away by this.        Andre
Louis, a blind musician and broadcaster, at Stationers’ Hall, see Periscope

There are many wonderful ways digital technology can open the world up to
those with visual impairments and this can be balanced by opportunities to
master written culture, whether as readers or writers. We are proud to be
supporting Canute, which is at the forefront of efforts to bring Braille,
and therefore literacy for blind people, into the 21st century.        Vicki
Hearn, Director of Nominet Trust

I am delighted that the Innovation 4 Growth programme has enabled Bristol
Braille to realise its research and development goals, and to evolve an
innovative concept into a product that is ready for user testing.
Tracey John, University of the West of England Head of Business, Research
and Professional Development

To the editors:

For many blind people Braille


literacy. Braille teaching and usage has been falling for decades and are
now in danger of entering terminal decline. Technical stagnation has left a
majority of blind people without the means to become literate or exercise
their literacy. Canute is intended to help reverse this decline by being
multiline and radically affordable.

Bristol Braille Technology was founded in 2011 by Ed Rogers to continue a
project he had been working on since 2008. The Canute project began in
October 2012. Its team is composed of volunteers and those working at
voluntary half-rates.

Bristol Braille Technology has committed to creating devices that can be
manufactured and repaired anywhere in the world, to Open Sourcing as much of
its work as possible, and to allowing individuals to build their own devices
according to their own needs from those sources. We are protecting Canute’s
IP with licences which will allow us to ensure that all improvements to the
design must be fed back to the community.

Canute is controlled from an internal Raspberry Pi computer running Raspbian
Linux. Computer Aided Design is done in the Open Source OpenSCAD programme,
which is entirely textual and will eventually be editable by blind designers
using the Canute itself.

The Braillists group was co-founded by Scott Wood, Senior Technology
Co-ordinator at Action for Blind People, Paul Sullivan, Access Officer at
M-Shed and Steph Tyszka, a social entrepreneur associated with BBT. It has
over sixty members from around the UK.

The Canute has been developed with funding from

iNet Microelectronics, iNet Biomedical, The School for Social Entrepreneurs,
Blatchington Court Trust, The Product Development Centre, The Information
Technologists’ Company and The Engineers’ Innovation Network.

The Canute Mk6 specifically was funded by;

Innovation 4 Growth


The University is committed to supporting enterprise and economic
development in the Bristol city-region and right across the South West, with
health solutions and assisted living being a particular area of focus. This
is an excellent example of that commitment translating into real support for
promising regional businesses. We wish Bristol Braille every success with
the trials and look forward to supporting other SMEs when the next round of
Innovation 4 Growth funding launches later this year.        Tracey John

Nominet Trust


Nominet Trust is the UK s leading Tech for Good funder. The Trust believes
in harnessing the power of digital technology to improve lives and

A UK registered charity, Nominet Trust brings together, invests in and
supports people committed to using digital technology to create social and
economic value.

Nominet Trust has invested in hundreds of projects since its inception,
providing business support as well as financial investment, seeking to
connect projects to prospective partners who can help increase their reach
and impact.

Nominet Trust is the charitable foundation of Nominet, the company
responsible for running the .UK internet infrastructure. Nominet believes in
the positive power of the internet, and with the money generated from the
registration of web addresses ending in .uk,, and, Nominet is
proud to be able to fund Nominet Trust s work.

We have also been aided by, amongst others,

Pervasive Media Studio,

Bristol Hackspace and

Business Disability Forum.

Source: Bristol Braille Technology