Smart kid, smart phone app


Shubham Banerjee working

Shubham Banerjee working with electronic components. Image courtesy of Intel.

It’s an internet truism that ‘Content is king’. And it is, assuming your audience can read it. But what if they can’t? Standard screen readers for people with a visual impairment struggle with things like text over pictures – something the internet has in bulk. They also don’t do well with pictures that don’t have alt text.

Enter Braigo. It’s the brainchild of a 15 year old boy, Shubham Banerjee, who founded the company with backing from Intel.

It’s a free cloud app that allows users to upload a picture, or a screen grab of text, and have it returned to them, almost instantly, in a form that a screen reader can translate. This means that information that people with normal eyesight think of as normal and everyday, like the news, can now be readily accessed by people with a vision impairment. In effect, they are able to ‘read’ any words accompanying visuals by having the text extracted and then translated into audio. Language, too, is accessible – the platform supports more than 50 of them.

Braigo has other practical applications. The timetable attached to the bus stop sign? Upload a picture from a smartphone to the app, and get an audio file back with the information. Restaurant menus and billboards are the same – upload a photo, download the audio.

The concept arose when Banerjee realised how difficult and expensive it is for visually impaired people to get the same information that sighted individuals constantly get free of charge—even from simple things like a meme on social media. By providing a way of enhancing access to popular culture, apps such as Braigo also help break down the isolation that sensory disabilities can bring with them.

This isn’t Banerjee’s first foray into developing low cost solutions for people with a visual impairment. He also has a Braille 3D printer at proof of concept stage. Based on Lego, it’s expected to substantially undercut the current price of around $2000 for such devices. With this innovation, Banerjee became the youngest inventor ever to receive substantial venture capital funding, and one of the youngest working in 3D printing. It began as a science fair project when he was 13.

Banerjee’s goal is to create a single platform for all accessibility needs… and he’s off to a flying start.

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