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Braille e-books: Why can't you buy a budget e-reader?
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Posted by Chay Saunders
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A budget-priced Braille e-reader seems like an obvious, uncontroversial idea that should be relatively easy to pull off.
That's certainly how it appeared to Pera Technology - a Leicestershire-based firm that coordinated a consortium of European firms to create a working prototype, called Anagraphs, last year.
It uses software-controlled heat to expand paraffin waxes in its screen, turning the material from liquid to solid and in turn controlling which of its 6,000 Braille dots are raised.
Yet the project has effectively been mothballed and the prototype left to gather dust despite one test user describing the machine as "the Holy Grail for the visually impaired and blind Braille users".
The problem is that a £1.2m grant from the European Union has run out. Unless the engineers source more cash, their efforts may have been in vain.
"Let's just hope we can get over the finishing line by securing the final stage of funding we need to bring the project to fruition," says project manager Peter Fowell.
Gap in the market
These images of Braille e-readers caused a stir when they were published five years ago
It's five years since four South Korean designers sparked interest in the idea by publishing a mock-up of an affordable Braille e-book reader.
Images of Yanko Design's device quickly spread across tech blogs, with Engadget going so far as to say the "concept can't be far from reality".
Refreshable Braille displays do exist, but they are expensive, bulky and typically designed for use at a desk. They also tend to offer only a single line of characters.
Scott Wood, from the charity Action for Blind People, says that the advantage of a Braille e-reader would be the ability to scan back and forth across many more words at a time.  

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