Osaka firm Askk has a text-to-Braille converter, the Smart Braille, coming out later this year that it claims one-ups existing devices via a simple idea that makes reading continuous text far easier. Whereas units currently on the market tend to use a horizontal strip that displays text line by line, forcing you to scan across and then jump back again, the Smart Braille uses a rotating wheel, meaning that it's possible to read text without a break as it runs under your fingertip. (We're no experts on this kind of thing, but some Googling doesn't turn up anything comparable.) The device comes with conversion software that will process a stream of text into Braille when it's connected to a PC, and it has a 4MB nonvolatile memory for carrying texts about. French and German versions should be out within the year, and there are also plans to develop Arabic and Chinese varieties. Price in the US should be around $2,000 (which Askk says is about 30% less than comparable models on the market); shipments are due to start in September.
(Via the Asahi Shimbun)