RoboBraille, a Danish Braille and speech translation service, funded by the European Commission, has begun its EU market validation tests in six different countries.
The RoboBraille project offers a tool that automates the translation of text into Braille and speech.
Users submit documents as attachments to e-mails. In return, they receive contracted Braille documents or MP3 files. Non-commercial users can use the system free of charge.
Tests are now underway in Denmark, Ireland, the UK, Italy, Portugal and Cyprus to validate the commercial viability and user acceptance of the service.
Lars Bars Christensen, coordinator of the project, told E-Health Europe: “As society becomes increasingly dependent on literacy, the problem of textual information available to print impaired people is likely to grow. We wanted to set up a system that was entirely automates, where the user didn’t need to know anything apart from an e-mail address.”
The system has been adopted by visual impairment charities in all six countries, and around 900 participants are taking part in the pilot.
Christensen and his co-creators had to adapt the technology so that it could understand new languages such as British English, Italian, Greek and Portuguese.
They have also made changes to the system so that it can read any sort of document from plain text to PDF format.
“About two or three years ago we came to the conclusion that it’s simply too complicated for the average user to produce Braille. You need to know far too much about Braille conversion, Braille characters and layout. This system does the converting for the user and by adapting this technology, we are making sure it has maximum benefit to any print-impaired reader,” Christensen told EHE.
Initial responses from the pilot sites for the system demonstrates the product’s potential commercial use and has been very positive. Christensen and his team are now analysing the market possibilities for the RoboBraille service in the six partner countries.
Christensen said: “Despite the service being only in a trial phase, it has already managed to raise great interest. We hope to see the system fully implemented next year and would like to widen the number of countries we offer it in and expand on the range of different languages we have available at the moment.”
The current pilot has been funded with £500,000 from the European Commission as part of the eTen initiative, the European Community programme designed to help the deployment of e-services that have a trans-European dimension.
RoboBraille’s developers will be expected to prepare a business plan/deployment report on the conditions for initial deployment of the service to the EC as part of the funding.
As well as providing a valuable service to print-impairment charities, Christensen also hopes to be able to make profit from the system by offering it to commercial businesses who have a legal requirement to produce information in Braille.
At present, RoboBraille processes around 400 requests a day, with the capacity to deal with up to 14,000 a day.
Denmark’s Vestsjaellands AMT, Cyprus’s Pangypria Organosi Tyflon and Ireland’s National Association of Housing for the Visually Impaired all offer the service.
The National Council for the Blind Ireland, Associazione Nazionale Subvedenti in Italy, Associacao Portuguesa de Criatividade in Portugal and the Royal National College for the Blind in the UK are the other pilot sites.
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information if you would like to participate in the pilot tests of the RoboBraille service.
Vestsjaellands AMT (Danish language)
Associazione Nazionale Subvedenti (Italian language)
Associacao Portuguesa de Criatividade (Portuguese language)