Braigo Labs

By: shubham

Human Rights , Techie

There are an estimated 285 million visually impaired people worldwide -- of which 39 million are legally blind, and 90% live in developing countries. Assistive devices and technologies, such as visual aids and other specialized computer software or hardware can increase vision and communication capabilities to advance inclusion for a population of people that might otherwise be isolated and excluded from family and community life.

Unfortunately, in many low and middle income countries, only 5-15% of those who need assistive technology are able to obtain it. This is due in part to the fact that individuals with disabilities represent a small percentage of our global population, thus there are fewer open-sourced or low-cost solutions. 

When I started Braigo Labs, the the cost of a braille printer was $2000 for a basic version, making it too expensive or difficult to obtain for normal people without government or non-profit sponsorships. My goal was to build a portable, battery-charged solution that could be assembled at home with utmost ease and sell it for around $350-dollars, thus achieving an 82% reduction in cost.

Deprived of basic human rights, more than half of all people with disabilities in developing countries live in extreme poverty. Access to assistive technology is a precondition for achieving equal opportunities, enjoying human rights and living in dignity. I believe technology should help us make our lives easier and not become a burden due to high costs. 

Assistive technologies are defined as "any adaptive device or service that increases participation, achievement or independence for a person with a disability."  When I was just 12 years old, I wanted to find an alternative way to help the visually impaired. I married my love of Legos with the idea of producing an "open-sourced" braille printer. I called it "Braigo v1.0" as a proof of concept to show everyone that we can do better to help the people in need. After meeting with some initial success, my parents were willing to invest $35,000 to enable me to develop a more advanced version of the original printer, with the capacity to use a desktop printer and an Intel computer chip.

Today, Braigo Labs is working on developing "humanely optimized" technologies to benefit mankind all over the world. Though we started with braille and embossing technologies, we will ultimately branch out to look at multiple alternative solutions to other costly assistive technology products.

The whole transcription process resides on the processor memory. Anybody can just upload the document and get it printed in braille. In our fashion of being transparent with our progress. This is one example of innovation that we have been working on at Braigo Labs Inc.Here the example shown is of a PDF document that is 160 pages long with graphics and layouts. It took around 30 seconds for the full document to be automatically transcribed into braille.

The general public can help support this project the following ways:

PRIORITY #1: Build your own BRAIGO Printer!

I have decided to keep Braigo "open source," with the design and software readily available for public consumption free of charge.


Team Members

  • Shubham Banerjee

    Evangelist / Founder

    A recipient of multiple awards for innovation and regularly featured in International and National Media including CNN, NBC, ABC, PBS, NPR, CBC, BBC,Discovery and many others. Shubham is the Evangelist/Founder of Braigo Labs Inc. and the inventor of Braigo. In 2014, he became the youngest entrepreneur to receive Venture Capital funding. He is also a highly sought after keynote speaker both by corporations and conferences. Shubham was born in Hasselt, Belgium. The family moved to San Jose, California when he was 4 years old. Later he moved to Santa Clara, California and completed his elementary schooling at Don Callejon School. He completed his middle school from Champion School in San Jose and is currently a freshman at Archbishop Mitty High School (class of 2019). He continues to reside in Santa Clara, California with his parents and younger sister Anoushka.

Impact

Advice for my peers

  1. BE INCLUSIVE AND COMPASSIONATE WITH ALL PEOPLE
    A social inclusive society is defined as "one where all people feel valued, their differences are respected, and their basic needs are met so they can live in dignity." When we don't enable ALL people to participate in social, economic, cultural and political life, we are discriminating and ultimately weakening the fabric of our own community and/or country. 

  2. PEOPLE WILL TROLL YOU, TAKE IT AS A LEARNING EXPERIENCE.
    IF THEY TROLL YOU, YOU ARE ON TO SOMETHING! 

    When you're an entrepreneur, you're constantly sticking your neck out. I've learned that internet trolls ("haters") use their keyboard to bast you in an attempt to make you look bad. When this happens, take a step back, quietly congratulate yourself, and IGNORE them. 

  3. INNOVATE FOR THE RIGHT REASONS, MONEY IS NOT ONE OF THEM
    There's a lot of research out there that proves trying to innovate for the sole purpose of making money is detrimental to a successful outcome.
     

  4. DON'T READ TOO MUCH TECHNOLOGY NEWS -- IT'S REALLY CONFUSING
    Technology changes at such a rapid pace that it can play into the "FOMO" effect -- or "Fear Of Missing Out."  My advice is to concentrate on the solution functionality and not on the ever-shifting technology landscape. Once you prove your solution has traction, there will always be an opportunity to rebuild it, if that's what needs to happen.

  5. DO SOMETHING UNIQUE -- THERE ARE MANY COPYCATS OUT THERE. DON'T BE ONE OF THEM.
    The world needs your genius. Being a copycat is not inspiring and will not build the marketplace trust you need to succeed. Ultimately people invest in the entrepreneurs, so to get people excited about your solution, it really has to be YOUR idea!

  6. SHARE WITH OTHERS AND GET HELP WHEN REQUIRED -- ONE PERSON CAN NOT DO EVERYTHING IN LIFE
    Entrepreneurs who try to do it all themselves are rarely able to be as successful as a team of people. The support of family is criticsal to a student-entrepreneur! My parents believed in me and were willing to invest $35,000 to help fund the development of the Braigo 2.0, which was a more advanced version of the original printer. Currently my mother, Malini Banerjee is serving as President of the company while my father, Niloy Banerjee serves as a mentor and sits on the Board of Directors.

My founding story

I've been loving LEGOS since I was 2 years old. And in the mail that came to our house in December 2013, I noticed those posts that said, 'Help the blind people with donations.' I had no idea about Braille, so I asked my parents how blind people read and they said 'Google it!'

I put my brain to work, and the first thing that came to mind was to create an alternative using my favorite toy. I took the LEGO model Mindstorms EV3 and devised a new kind of Braille printer that's only $350.

It took me 3 weeks and I broke and re-assembled 7 or so different types of models before settling on one and programing it. My dad was my guide whenever I got stuck. He works a lot, even from home after he comes back from office. He used to sit down with me on the kitchen table , while he continued with his conference calls and work, I worked on building the model. For the couple of weeks , it was very long days for me. I started working on Braigo after I finished my homework and assignments and some days , I was awake till 2 am. But it was all worth it. 

I did not patent the idea, I didn't want to go through the expensive process. 

It took time to perfect my pitch, but once I did it was easy for people to "get it."

As a result, I was recognized at the 2014 Tech Awards and received an invitation to the White House Maker Faire, an event that awards student entrepreneurs and innovators. Intel Capital also ended up investing in Braigo Labs, which reportedly made me the youngest tech entrepreneur ever funded by a VC firm!

Now we are working on our third model, which we plan to send to various blind institutions for feedback. 


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