Shubham Banerjee, a 14 year-old Indian origin boy, has launched a company to develop low-cost machines to print Braille, the tactile writing system for the visually impaired.
Technology giant Intel has recently invested in his startup, Braigo Labs. This made Shubham the youngest entrepreneur to receive such funding.
Shubham has proved that it is never too early to become an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.
He came up with this idea at school science fair project last year after he asked his parents a simple question: How do blind people read?
His parents answered to ‘Google it” to know about it .
Shubham then took the help of internet and was shocked to learn that Braille printers, also called embossers, cost at leat $2,000, which are too expensive for most blind readers, especially in developing countries.
“I just thought that price should not be there. I know that there is a simpler way to do this.”
He also demonstrated how his printer works at the kitchen table where he spent many late nights building it with a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit.
Shubham wants to develop a desktop Braille printer that costs around $350 and weighs just a few pounds, compared with current models that can weigh more than 20 pounds (nine kilograms). The machine could be used to print Braille reading materials on paper, using raised dots instead of ink, from a personal computer or electronic device.
The aim of the young boy is that most of blind people should use Braille printer.
He lives in the Silicon Valley suburb of Santa Clara, just minutes away from Intel headquarters.
Braigo – Braille Printer with Lego Mindstorms EV3. -wikipedia
After the “Braigo” — a name that combines Braille and Lego — won numerous awards and enthusiastic support from the blind community, Banerjee started Braigo Labs last summer with an initial $35,000 investment from his dad. His parents are feeling proud on the achievements of their son. Niloy Banerjee said that as parents they started to get involved more, that he is on something and this innovative project should continue. Shubham used the money to build a more sophisticated version of his Lego-based printer using an off-the-shelf desktop printer and a newly released Intel computer chip.
The new model, Braigo 2.0, can translate electronic text into Braille before printing.
Intel executives were so impressed with Shubham’s printer that in month of November they invested an undisclosed sum to his startup.
Edward Ross, director of Inventor Platforms at Intel said that the boy is solving a real problem, and he wants to go off and disrupt an existing industry. And that’s really what it’s all about.
Braigo Labs is using the money to hire professional engineers and advisers to help design and build Braille printers based on Shubham’s ideas.
Niloy Banerjee said that the company aims to have a prototype ready for blind organizations to test this summer and have a Braigo printer in the market later this year. Henry Wedler, who is the advisor to Braigo Labs, said that this Braille printer is a great way for people around the world who really don’t have many resources at all to learn Braille and to use it practically.
Wedler is himself blind and working on a doctorate in chemistry at the University of California, Davis.
Community services director at the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind, a non-profit center that serves the visually impaired and prints Braille materials for public agencies said An affordable printer would allow the visually impaired readers to print out letters, household labels, shopping lists and short reading materials on paper in Braille Martinez said she loves the fact the fact that a young person is thinking about a community that have been neglected and people don’t thought about them.
Shubham is too young to be CEO of his own company, so his mother has taken the job, though she admits she wasn’t too supportive when he started the project.