The first ‘Kindle for the blind’ will be on sale by the end of the year, say its developers.
The Canute will turn text downloaded from a memory stick into braille, allowing blind readers to access an array of books.
Its developers say it is the world’s first multi-line digital Braille e-reader, allowing people to read nine lines of Braille with 40 characters on each line – the equivalent of half a page on a regular Kindle.
The creation, which contains more than 1,000 cogs, pinions and mechanical connectors, will be available by the end of this year.
But it won’t be cheap – will the price expected to be between £600-£700, though bosses say it’s still 20 times cheaper per character than any other digital braille.
The Canute has been developed by Bristol Braille Technology whose Managing Director Ed Rogers (pictured below) said it will work in much the same way as a regular e-reader.
He said: “We’re keeping it simple – you read a page, press a button at the bottom to go forward a page, back a page or return to the library menu.”
Readers will be able to access books on the Canute through braille library services such as RNIB Library, which provide books in a digital braille format, or by using online braille conversion programmes.
Ed, 29, added: “There’s often a long delay between print publication and the transcribed braille release, and certainly not all volumes will be available from braille library services.”
He added: “However if you have an e-book file you can automatically convert it to braille format yourself, using online programmes such as robobraille.org, and download it to your Canute.”
He compared the internal mechanism, which relies on motors and gears to refresh the page, to an intricate clock and “very Heath Robinson”.
“No-one has ever successfully done something like this before,” he added, “and we’re looking to sell it for about £600-£700, which is somewhere in the region of 20 times cheaper per character than any existing digital braille.”
Ed and his engineers have been working on the Canute since 2012, and have worked with community group Braillists to test a number of prototypes.
Now on its 11th prototype, the Canute’s final size is 14×14 inches and approximately two and a half inches thick.
It uses a similar braille type to that found on signs rather than conventional softer paper braille.