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12-Year-Old Builds Lego Braille Printer

samzenpus posted about 2 months ago | from the new-type dept.

Hardware Hacking 49

An anonymous reader writes "Shubham Banerjee, a seventh grader in California, has developed a braille printer made from a $350 Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit and some simple hardware. He calls the science fair project the Braigo. 'The Braigo's controller is set up to scroll through the alphabet. You choose a letter and it prints it out with tactile bumps on a roll of calculator paper. The print head is actually a thumbtack, which Banerjee settled on after also testing a small drill bit and a mechanical pencil. The first prototype isn't terribly fast, but it proves the concept works. Banerjee is working on improvements that will allow it to print full pages of text.'"

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49 comments

Braille Legos (3, Interesting)

sokoban (142301) | about 2 months ago | (#46263161)

So it looks like his device is a braille paper printer (Which is pretty darn cool), but I wonder if something like a smaller version of Legos could be used to make "eraseable" braille type.

Re:Braille Legos (3, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#46263563)

There are other printers that can produce "erasable" braille. Some of the most interesting do it with tiny electrical impulses that produce a tactile sensation that is an illusion of dots. This was described in an article [economist.com] in last week's Economist. The article pointed out that far fewer people are learning braille today for two reasons: other technologies replace it for many purposes, and, because of better treatment and prevention, there are far fewer blind people today.

Re:Braille Legos (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 2 months ago | (#46264283)

So it looks like his device is a braille paper printer (Which is pretty darn cool), but I wonder if something like a smaller version of Legos could be used to make "eraseable" braille type.

Pasta sauce?

I can tell you from the experience of getting Legos on a white shirt, that shit is not erasable.

Who cares? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46263217)

I have a blind friend. He can't see anything- he was born blind and his eyes look kinda funny for it.

He uses a commercial printer that set him back several thousand dollars, plus a unit that lets him "feel" text (without actually printing it- it's basically a long line of pins that extend or retract to create the equivalent of a Braille character display).

Anyways, there isn't much going on in the way of hardware here. The printer runs over serial (DB9) and the displays a USB unit, but it emulates a RS-232 serial port on the host OS. I was able to get a bunch of ancient text based adventure games working specifically for thae devices not too long ago (took about a day to Hal up the code and get it compiled and talking to the hardware).

My point is this- software matters, and this kid has NONE. Building a Braille printer is not a hard thing to do. Writing software for a Braille printer and display that actually makes those devices useful to the point that a blind person can navigate a modern day computer is.

Frankly, I built dot printers using the original Lego Mindstorms kit (the one with the H8 powered yellow brick). It wouldn't have been a strech to do Braille printing instead. So I fail to see why this is even news, as if its somehow revolutionary or even worth being mentioned. Hell, Lego even published a pneumatic kit for the Mindstorms that let you build a plotter.

Re:Who cares? (1)

redback (15527) | about 2 months ago | (#46263273)

And repraps are stupid because you can just buy a commercial 3d printer.

You are missing the point.

Re:Who cares? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46263309)

...software matters, and this kid has NONE

Read the fucking article dipshit:

"He took a basic, preexisting pattern for a printer and reworked it with new software and hardware enhancements to print out letters in braille"

Anyways, my point is this: frankly, the twelve year old kid is far better than you, you pathetic little pimpstick.

Re:Who cares? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46264789)

Fuck you.
How nice for this kid. The "new software" is his program that runs on the lego birck to turn the motors.
The software the OP is talking about is software to interface with other modern programs.
AKA drivers for windows Mac and Linux.
Why is this on slashdot? You can go on the lego forums and find hundreds of more interesting things that have been build by twelve year olds.

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46263349)

I hope you aren't a parent.

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46264651)

It's funny how a 40 year old solution is in many way more impressive and high tech.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

Granted, the film plods along a bit but it's worth it.

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46265299)

The point isn't that someone made a braille printer from lego, or that it its a good device(its not). The point is that a 12 year old did it, and frankly - that's fantastic. Thumbs up to the kid for thinking in the right direction. Keep it up and you might end up as an engineer one day.

Not particularly useful.. (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46263303)

Yes it produces Braille... but 0.25 cps on 2 inch wide paper with the wrong dot spacing is not particularly useful. A printer that costs one tenth with one twentieth the performance is no breakthrough.
The problem has never been about technology, braille embossers have been around for decades ... it's a problem of volume. Unless dual use technology (assistive and mainstream) for either embossers or refreshable displays are used the cost will always be very high.

Re:Not particularly useful.. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46263389)

You are a classic example of the two kinds of people. There are those that do things, and then there are those that ...........

Re:Not particularly useful.. (1)

SpankiMonki (3493987) | about 2 months ago | (#46263445)

The problem has never been about technology, braille embossers have been around for decades ... it's a problem of volume.

Or, the problem is about affordable technology.

As far as the device being useful, TFA mentions that the device is a prototype. I guess you didn't read TFA, or you don't know what "prototype" means.

Re:Not particularly useful.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46263577)

The problem has never been about technology, braille embossers have been around for decades ... it's a problem of volume.

Or, the problem is about affordable technology.

As far as the device being useful, TFA mentions that the device is a prototype. I guess you didn't read TFA, or you don't know what "prototype" means.

A stylus will produce braille and is very cheap. The article touts this as being a fraction of the cost of current embossers but it doesn't point out how poorly it actually does in producing braille. Yes affordability is important but only if it practically produces the embossed braille. A cheap lousy prototype does not improve upon what we've already got.

Re:Not particularly useful.. (2)

SpankiMonki (3493987) | about 2 months ago | (#46263695)

A cheap lousy prototype does not improve upon what we've already got.

So...you don't know what "prototype" means. Thanks for clearing that up.

Re:Not particularly useful.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46263889)

I agree this is a total left wing media let's get more third world welfare cases into first world country bullshit.
It's a "preexisting (kit) printer" that he made some basic changes to print braille.
One of the problem is, it's a TOY.
I'm sure he's working on a Lego dump truck with smartphone control.
It would be much more useful (and certainly a lot cheaper than $350) if he modified a TOOL like a real dot matrix printer to punch out braille.

Re:Not particularly useful.. (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 months ago | (#46264181)

Did you notice the part about it being built out of LEGO?

Obviously it's not a final production model..

hi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46263457)

http://replikarom.com/category/rom-2/galaxy-s3

What a crock of shit. (-1, Troll)

Stoutlimb (143245) | about 2 months ago | (#46263525)

Give a kid an expensive pile of toys, and way more adult help than is admitted in the article, and then pretend to amaze everyone on Slashdot. This kid isn't special in the least, he's just been set up by a tiger dad or mom. Big fucking deal.

Re:What a crock of shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46263703)

Give a kid an expensive pile of toys, and way more adult help than is admitted in the article, and then pretend to amaze everyone on Slashdot. This kid isn't special in the least, he's just been set up by a tiger dad or mom. Big fucking deal.

Maybe. Let's say his parents are engineering professors at CalTech or something and he got plenty ofencouragement, help and guidance from them - he's a 12 year old boy.

So what?

Here's a kid building a product that will be FOSSed - some hotshot engineer/builder can run with it - and create an affordable printer for some blind person somwhere.

It's to see someone bulding and designing something useful instead of the no-value advertizing crap being spewed out of Silicon Valley over the last decade or so. It's refreshing to see a creative and smart kid doing something of value for the World and people in need.

This kid has done more for the World than people like Mark Zuckerberg, Tom Perkins, and everyone else making billions off of nothing but sofware and hardware (ex.Google Glass) for advertising.

I hope he comes up with something along this vein and makes a shit load of money, creates a valuable product, and helps people - that's the kind of entrepreneur that makes people think, "Yep, he deserved that money."

Re:What a crock of shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46263809)

So what?

So GP up there spent his childhood playing vidya games and whacking it to furry porn instead of actually doing something.

Since he was a waste, every child is a waste, you see. He couldn't; clearly, no one else can.

Re:What a crock of shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46263897)

So GP up there spent his childhood playing vidya games and whacking it to furry porn instead of actually doing something.

Since he was a waste, every child is a waste, you see. He couldn't; clearly, no one else can.

So that's why the post was modded "Informative" - it informs us about the author of the post, not the topic at hand. Now I get it!

Re:What a crock of shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46264433)

It also informs us of the intelligence of the moderator.

Re:What a crock of shit. (1)

SpankiMonki (3493987) | about 2 months ago | (#46263721)

...he's just been set up by a tiger dad or mom. Big fucking deal.

Nope. Tiger moms/dads are the least likely to give their kids an expensive pile of toys, or coddle them in any way at all. Tiger parents are typically hyper-strict disciplinarians who might threaten to burn their children's stuffed animals [miamiherald.com] if their homework isn't perfect, or if they make anything other than A grades.

As for the rest of your post, well...you sound pretty bitter about something related to childhood. Would you like to talk about it?

Re: What a crock of shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46263941)

I think the point is that they don't give the parents any credit when the kid probably did 25% of the actual work and maybe little of the logic.

Reminds me of that Simpsons episode where Bart won the science fair because it was so crappy he clearly was the only child to do it without a parent's help. Ironically, homer did.

That said, a 12 year old is capable of doing this, I was programming when I was 12. Is this news worthy? Not really. Kid's make science projects like this all of the time

Re: What a crock of shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46264123)

I think the point is that they don't give the parents any credit when the kid probably did 25% of the actual work...I was programming when I was 12. Is this news worthy? Not really.

Whatever. Your parents probably did 75% of your programming work for you when you were 12.

See what I did there? I just completely dismissed your youthful accomplishment without a shred of evidence. What do you suppose that says about me as a person?

Re: What a crock of shit. (2)

aslashdotaccount (539214) | about 2 months ago | (#46264245)

My dad was in military intelligence (the human kind, not the techno kind) and mom a housewife who didn't have a day of schooling. Yet, I caught the programming bug pretty early on (there were triggers which generated that interest of course, but most of it did not come from within my nuclear family). To date I'm the only one who's developed a fully functional Turing-complete programming language in my country. My parents could not help me with that, nor some of the very first programs I wrote as a little boy.

Sometimes we fail to realize that children do pick up interests with very little motivation, which isn't always provided by the parents. No matter how much we may want our child to become a chess grandmaster, he/she might decide to become a professional ballet dancer. What is important is to make sure that their interests are nurtured and celebrated. We as grown-ups should not feel threatened by it, but rather give support so that the child grows in confidence.

As for this particularly 'invention', I have to say that the article is a little too emphatic as well as inaccurate. Had master Banerjee developed his own hardware interface and the codec to control it, then it would be very impressive from a 'new software and hardware' perspective. However, he has only written software that (most probably) interfaces with the Mindstorms software drivers. I bet you anything that there are plenty of children out there who've developed lots of clever software for Mindstorms, and created clever mechanical devices from the EV3 kit. Why should they not be celebrated as much as master Banerjee?

Re: What a crock of shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46265107)

Nah, my dad barely knew programming. The thing is, my programming was pretty bad at age 12. I didn't know what arrays were and how to use them.

Also, look up the word "probably" since you don't seem to know the definition.

Re: What a crock of shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46265121)

Oops, replied to wrong post. This was intended for your parent.

Re: What a crock of shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46268543)

thing is, my programming was pretty bad at age 12. I didn't know what arrays were and how to use them.

Also, look up the word "probably" since you don't seem to know the definition.

That's PROBABLY why you weren't newsworthy. In fact, you PROBABLY still don't amount to much.

Re: What a crock of shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46265191)

> Kid's make science projects like this all of the time

Their *what* make science projects?

not a crock of shit. (1, Insightful)

globaljustin (574257) | about 2 months ago | (#46264771)

Tiger moms/dads are the least likely to give their kids an expensive

Tiger moms/dads are *most* likely to bribe your professor or require contractors to hire you b/c it would be bad "face" if their kid was a failure at life.

Take that 'tiger' superiority and cram it up your...

whatever...

GP's post is acrimonious but it is **totally fucking true**

This kid didn't do this...the kid's parent gave him step by step directions. I had an awesome dad who was a cryptographer in the Navy in the 70s and he taught me **all kinds** of awesome shit. That's awesome and I'm thankful. He sure as shit didn't help me write an Orthogonal Time-Division Multiplexing algorythm for my science fair projects though...because that would have been **cheating**...he helped me make a few things but obviously this kid had all kinds of help and most importantly, the article seems to purposely not mention how the kid made all this happen just his step by step.

It's about accuracy in reporting **WHAT IT TAKES TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN THE TECH WORLD**

if we present this mindless crap as examples of young people doing science...well, we're cheating **them** and **ourselves**

there are **real** kids out there doing stuff at this level with only basic guidance & procurement help

Re:not a crock of shit. (1)

FhnuZoag (875558) | about 2 months ago | (#46265571)

This kid didn't do this...the kid's parent gave him step by step directions. I had an awesome dad who was a cryptographer in the Navy in the 70s and he taught me **all kinds** of awesome shit. That's awesome and I'm thankful. He sure as shit didn't help me write an Orthogonal Time-Division Multiplexing algorythm for my science fair projects though...because that would have been **cheating**...he helped me make a few things but obviously this kid had all kinds of help and most importantly, the article seems to purposely not mention how the kid made all this happen just his step by step.

It's about accuracy in reporting **WHAT IT TAKES TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN THE TECH WORLD**

if we present this mindless crap as examples of young people doing science...well, we're cheating **them** and **ourselves**

there are **real** kids out there doing stuff at this level with only basic guidance & procurement help

Wow, you sure know a lot about this random kid, to assert all this with so much confidence. Modded insightful too! I'm convinced.

Do tell, how do you determine if something is done by a "**real**" kid, and not a FAKE KID like this one?

Re:not a crock of shit. (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 2 months ago | (#46267869)

see, it's actually pretty easy to discern the real thing from a cheap, fake Asian knock-off

sorry you can't tell the difference

Re:not a crock of shit. (1)

SpankiMonki (3493987) | about 2 months ago | (#46266413)

there are **real** kids out there doing stuff at this level with only basic guidance & procurement help

So after you rant about how the kid in TFA couldn't possibly have built the printer himself, you go on to claim that other unnamed "real" kids are capable of doing comparable work unaided.

Congratulations. That's some world class reasoning you got going on there.

Re:not a crock of shit. (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 2 months ago | (#46267831)

I used to be a High School teacher so I know all about what young people are capable of doing.

Re:not a crock of shit. (1)

SpankiMonki (3493987) | about 2 months ago | (#46270761)

I used to be a High School teacher so I know all about what young people are capable of doing.

Being a former high school teacher doesn't explain how you know with such certainty that young Mr. Banerjee relied on outside help to produce his project - especially since you freely admit that there are kids his age that are capable of such work without assistance.

A valid explanation for your ridiculous claim would be something along the lines of "I know him/his parents personally" or "I secretly watch him through his window at night" or maybe even "I'm Professor Xavier and Mr. Banerjee is one of my mutant protégés, therefore I can read his mind with my telepathic powers".

__________________________

These stories pop up from time to time on slashdot, and the responses are predictable. Some posts are supportive of the young person's achievement, but unfortunately there are many that display a pathetic mix of malevolence/jealousy and Dunning-Kruger.

Then there's guys like you and the OP who simply come off as a rancorous, resentful old men.

Cheers!

Re:not a crock of shit. (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 2 months ago | (#46273179)

i'm promoting **reality** not some parental PR to boost the kids resume

look at the source of the article, its a blog post by **the kids father**

reality

i'm happy to give respect to a young person who makes an engineering breakthrough or invents a way to do something or cracks DRM...Dvd John is a good example

that's real

you are defending this guy b/c you probably benefit from the same thing somehow...either yourself or your kid

it's bullshit and you know it

Missing The Point (3, Insightful)

ltrand (933535) | about 2 months ago | (#46263539)

I have a Thermaltake 5.25" drive bay cup-holder/cigarette lighter. How is it that there is more of a market demand for THAT than a braille printer? Or all of the other useless tech junk out there? I remember sitting next to a blind pastor on a flight. He was trying to use his laptop, but was having some difficulty because of a program error. We just haven't built these awesome "freedom machines" to be really utilized by anyone with handicaps. All the gaming keyboards, mice, and other gee-wiz devices have more of a market to flood with "mee-to" crap, yet not one real piece of assistance tech in all of MicroCenter or NewEgg? Really?

The real point, and what makes it interesting, is that is was a 12 year-old who built the thing from Lego's and spare junk. He saw a need, and went to fill it. Good on him, that is the point of these science fair projects, make kids think about the world around them and how to solve problems, even simple ones. Hopefully it sets an example as to how we should be thinking about the world; as a place filled with people who have needs and desires. With these types of kits making it into the homes of regular people, I look forward to the engineering boom that could come out of it. I say an arduino, pi, makerbot, and lego mindstorm for every kid. Let their imagination run wild.

Re:Missing The Point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46266383)

"mee-to"? What does that mean? First, what is a "mee", why is there a dash, and what is the "mee" toing?

Absolutely fantastic!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46264019)

Even if he were old and grumpy like me, this would be amazing work. The principle is insanely simple and I look forward to better designs to come. Braille printers shouldn't be so expensive. I've been working on a full Braille screen by designing pixels that will measure 0.8x0.8mm and using memory alloys and springs for motion. I am hoping to get the per pixel cost to below $0.01 each but memory alloys that work are ex

An old idea I had ages ago. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46265309)

It was ages ago back when there were just laser copiers, no printers (yes that long ago).

It was to print on a sheet of thermoexpandable or thermodeformable plastic and expose that to a infrared heat source which would raise the print. Nowadays, an inkjet printer would be better, no fuser drum to complicate things. Or you could have inkjet cartridges filled with a chemical which would react with a specially surfaced paper to create bumps.

Shubham Banerjee? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46264117)

Cue passive aggressive racist comments. It wouldn't be /. without them.

Re:Shubham Banerjee? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46266675)

You're the first to bring up race, so either you've underestimated the slashdot community, or you're the only one who has RTFA.

Re:Shubham Banerjee? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46273365)

I don't underestimate the sly racism of this "community."

How about movable type? (1)

davidwr (791652) | about 2 months ago | (#46266769)

As a Rube-Goldberg device, I'd like to see a Lego printer that assembled "Braille movable type" using "Letters" made of 2x3 legos with selected dots shaved off.

Call it the Legotenburg Press.

A good start (1)

jovius (974690) | about 2 months ago | (#46268283)

It's a great thing he did, and I hope he can make it something usable for the blind also. There exists screen reader type of braille machines like ones from Seika [seikabraille.com], which I've installed for one natively blind person. These can go for thousands of dollars because the mass market doesn't exist. The person I know also utilizes OCR scanners and speech synthesis. The books and newspapers are provided in audio by an organization for the blind.

I'd guess there isn't much need for paper as the medium, but everything helps. Cheap method to produce printed braille would be of great help for event organizers who need to cater blind participants.

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