Braigo (Brai-lle +Le-go) is a Braille printer design. Braigo version 1.0 uses a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit, which includes a microprocessor with assorted components such as electric motors, sensors and actuators. Braigo v1.0 was designed by 13-year-old Shubham Banerjee in January 2014, as an entry in 7th grade school science fair project. The model was based on the PLOTT3R, a bonus model released with the EV3 kit and originally designed by Ralph Hempel. The cost was said to be about US$350 or 250 Euros for the Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit and some extra commonly used hardware whereas a conventional Braille printer retails starting from about $1,900.
In August 2014, a new company called Braigo Labs Inc. was formed with an office in Palo Alto, California. Since Shubham Banerjee was a minor, his mother Malini is listed as the President of the company and the law firm Inventus Law acting as advisor.
On September 9, 2014, at the Intel Developers Forum (IDF 2014), Banerjee demonstrated 'Braigo v2.0'. As of at least February 2018 the product has still not been released and there have been no official announcements since 2018.
Shubham Banerjee was born in Hasselt, Belgium. The family moved to San Jose, California, when he was four years old. Later he moved to Santa Clara, California, and completed his elementary schooling at Don Callejon School. He joined Magnolia Science Academy in Santa Clara in middle school for a couple of months, before moving to Champion School in San Jose for middle school. He lives in Santa Clara, California, with his parents and younger sister.
In Banerjee's own words, taken from the abstract submitted at Synopsys Science Fair:
The challenges with assistive technologies currently available are either too expensive or difficult to obtain for normal people without government or non-profit sponsorships. According to WHO reports, there are estimated 285 million visually impaired people worldwide and 90% of them live in developing countries. At this moment the cost of a braille printer is more than $2000 for a basic version. Thus many millions of people across the world have limited access. If we could reduce the cost to below $500, we could already reduce the cost by 75%. To give access to easily assemble and build a braille printer for the masses, the basic ability of DO-IT-YOURSELF (D-I-Y) is key. The kit should be readily available at stores or procured online from reputable websites to make the process easy for adoption. Most printers operate in X (to move the print head) -Y (to push the paper) – Z (to print or not to print) co-ordinates. The printer has to be compact and self-explanatory. Engineering as a discipline is the application of scientific, economic, social, and practical knowledge in order to design, build, maintain, and improve structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes. In this experiment, I relied on my love of LEGO and readily available Mindstorms EV3 robotics kit to build a D-I-Y Braille printer and program the device to print in Braille. I worked with a constraint that all parts should be from one kit and maybe some low cost readily available add-ons to make such a printer. After studying the Braille language; I understood that a visually impaired individual feels through his/her fingers the bumps on a paper through a combination of 6 dots. If we could make a printer that prints (by making holes in a paper) as a mirror image of the letter and when flipping the page we should be able to translate letters into BRAILLE. I used rapid prototyping concepts where I tried to build models and programing it to see if I am able to get the desired results. I had to build and break 7 different models before settling on a final one that was able to print the six dots in a desired sequence according to the Braille standards. After which, I programmed the letters A-Z. I used a normal calculator paper to provide the proof of concept. I have validated my version 1.0 of BRAIGO and potential small updates in software necessary to perfect for the next version 2.0 at Santa Clara Valley Blind Center based in San Jose and also with Hoby Wedler at his laboratory in UC Davis. I would say that the first prototype of the proof of concept has been successful and me providing the building instructions and software as open source will provide a low cost alternative solution to the visually impaired community. I achieved a 82% reduction in cost and have been overwlemed by the encouraging feedback from both the sighted and the blind equally!
Braigo v1.0 made Open Source
As announced in a CNN and other interviews, Banerjee has decided to give away the design and software for free. He said on an NBC program "I think I'm doing something that could actually help people". He has uploaded building instruction on his YouTube channel, and also uploaded the software project file .ev3 on the LegoMindstorms EV3 community page. He said that "I think Braigo making the news will rejuvenate others and the beneficiary will be the visually impaired individuals. All good for humankind." Detailed download and build information is available on-line and detailed directions on how to build Braigo were published in Makezine.
On September 9, 2014, at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF 2014) Mega Session: The Next Revolution in Computing: Edison, Wearables, and New Devices with Intel VP and GM, Mike Bell, Banerjee demonstrated Braigo 2.0. Braigo 2.0 promises to be the world's first, relatively inexpensive, silent, IOT enabled, light weight, consumer oriented, braille printer or embosser. Braigo 2.0 reportedly contains new patent pending technology in addition to Intel's Edison Chip paired with a development board.
After Braigo v1.0, the natural progression for Banerjee, after feedback from the visually impaired community, was to make a real consumer version that could eventually be bought off-the-shelf.
At Campus Party Keynote in São Paulo, Brazil, in February 2015. Shubham Banerjee gave a demonstration of a new method of transcoding documents to braille without any software installation on the computer. The technology involves uploading any document from a computer into the memory of the Intel's Edison chip that's the brain of the Braigo Braille printer. The idea behind this new method is to reduce the cost of ownership of the Braigo printer without having to buy any transcribing software for braille.
|2015||2015 Next Generation of STEM Leaders||US News|
|2015||2015 Invention Award||Popular Science|
|2015||20 under 20||Veckans Affärer|
|2015||40 under 40||Silicon Valley Business Journal |
|2014||Nominet Trust 100 Winner||Nominet Trust |
|2014||Technology Innovation of the Year||Trusted Reviews Time Inc. UK|
|2014||25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child ||UNICEF publication (ISBN 978-92-806-4780-8) "Reimagine the Future: Innovation for every child" |
|2014||Certificate of Recognition ||California State Assembly Member Bob Wieckowski|
|2014||Best of America||Reader's Digest|
|2014||Winner of 2014 Synopsys Outreach Foundation n+1 Prize ||Synopsys Outreach Foundation, Inc.|
|2014||Lego Build 4 Good Challenge (Inspired by Braigo) - Seattle ||Lego|
|2014||2014 Youth Innovator Award ||OPEN Silicon Valley|
|2014||NBC & AACI APA Heritage Month Honoree 2014 ||NBC & AACI|
|2014||Special Congressional Recognition||Mike Honda|
|2014||Maker Faire Editor's Choice Ribbon||Maker Faire|
|2014||White House Maker Faire 2014 ||White House|
|2014||The Queen Latifah Show & Lego Trophy||The Queen Latifah Show|
|2014||Honorable Mention||The Tech Awards|
On February 21, 2014, CNN International in their program Quest Means Business, hosted by Maggie Lake, aired an interview with Banerjee about Braigo titled "Boy Genius makes Braille printer from Lego". On February 28, 2014, Lake commented on Twitter "Am I going to look back and say I interviewed the next Steve Jobs, Bill Gates?". On February 29, 2014, NBCs Bay Area Proud program, hosted by Garvin Thomas, aired a full program dedicated to Banerjee and his invention of Braigo. On May 13, 2014, NBC aired a "Bay Area Proud Updates" to inform viewers of progress with Braigo since their February 29, program aired. The program took segments of the official Lego "Build 4 Good" event video in Seattle, published in YouTube. On March 15, 2014, MSNBC Melissa Harris-Perry program made Banerjee the "Foot soldier of the week". On March 4, 2014, Janet's Planet, hosted by Janet Ivey, an interview titled "Lego Braille Printer - Braigo Inventor on Janet's Planet" was made available. On June 23, 2014, Banerjee was featured on The Queen Latifah Show and also a surprise recognition from Lego was presented to him by Queen Latifah- "Queen Latifah gives a special award to 12-year-old Shubham Banerjee who created a low-cost Braille printer out of LEGOS".
On February 22, 2014, CBC Radio aired an interview of Banerjee on their program As it Happens titled "California seventh grader makes Lego braille printer" On February 22, 2014 NPR aired an interview with Banerjee titled "Boy Builds Braille Printer Out Of Lego"
In August 2014, Braigo Labs Inc. was formed with Banerjee announcing that he is working on his next version of the Braille Printer and named it as Braigo v2.0. Since he is a minor, his mother Malini Banerjee is named as the President of the company with him listed as Founder. Braigo and BraigoLabs are both now registered trademarks of Braigo Labs Inc. The offices of the company is located in Palo Alto, California.
Intel was so impressed with Banerjee's efforts that Mike Bell, Intel's VP and GM of New Products Group announced at Intel Developer Forum (IDF 2014) that Intel will invest in Braigo Labs Inc. to help bring the printer to market. In Intel Capital Global Summit 2014, it was announced that they have closed the seed investment round for Braigo Labs Inc. founded by Shubham Banerjee,
On November 4, 2014, at the Intel Capital Global Summit, Intel Capital announced that they have funded Braigo Labs Inc. the startup founded by Shubham Banerjee. CBS News' John Blackstone reports, "the eighth grader is already a star; the youngest person ever to get venture capital investment for a start-up", reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone; Silicon Valley Business Journal reported "Shubham Banerjee is among a couple dozen entrepreneurs who received funding from Intel Capital on Tuesday, but he is probably the only one whose father had to drive him there". Venture Beat Editor-in-Chief reported "Banerjee had to take the day off from middle school. That's because he's just 13 years old — making him, quite possibly, the youngest recipient of venture capital in Silicon Valley history. (He's definitely the youngest to receive an investment from Intel Capital.)" San Jose Mercury News reported on their front page on November 4, 2014, newspaper "And on Tuesday, Intel Capital, the company's global investment arm, will announce it has invested in the teenager's company, making Shubham the world's youngest tech entrepreneur to receive venture capital funding." In an article in The Wall Street Journal titled "Intel Capital's Arvind Sodhani: Unique Companies 'Rarer and Rarer'" on November 4, 2014, journalist Deborah Gage asked the question "You've been at Intel Capital for a long time. How much longer are you going to keep doing this?", Arvid Sodhani answered "I'm having fun. We're having a successful year. The fun part is meeting people like Shubham Banerjee who are passionate about pursuing their dreams and feeling comfortable that this is a risky business. It's not just a risk for us, but the individuals doing this are taking a risk at a personal level. I like pinpointing the risk—it's rewarding to have a success down the road." As reported by Johnny Dodd, reporter from People magazine, "'We've funded young entrepreneurs, but no one this young – certainly not in middle school,' a spokesman for Intel Capital says. The venture-capital firm recently announced an investment deal with Banerjee's company, Braigo Labs, that one source estimates is worth several hundred thousand dollars."
Shubham Banerjee was invited by Microsoft for their Student Tech Fair on May 13, 2015, in New York City to display his work with Braigo. After the event Microsoft published that Shubham is working with the Windows team at Microsoft to integrate the Braigo with the Windows 10 for easy integration of the solution that he is developing. "Now Shubham is working to bring the Braigo 2.0 to market. He's started working with my colleagues on the Windows team to integrate Braigo drivers with Windows for easy deployment."
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