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7 months

Meet ‘Annie’, World’s 1st Self-Learning Braille Device That Also Acts as a Personal Tutor

Sanskriti Dawle, Aman Srivastava, Dilip Ramesh and Saif Shaikh started Thinkerbell Labs. Its flagship product, Annie is a self-learning braille device which acts as a personal tutor with audio-guided lessons, available in multiple regional languages.

Meet ‘Annie’, World’s 1st Self-Learning Braille Device That Also Acts as a Personal Tutor

When Sanskriti Dawle, Aman Srivastava, Dilip Ramesh and Saif Shaikh were in their second year of college at BITS Pilani, Goa, they teamed up as part of Project Mudra. Together, they created a braille alphabet song box on a Raspberry Pi, which is a credit card-sized computer.

They then visited a blind school with their song box. “When we went there, our entire perspective changed. We couldn’t believe that teenagers were playing with such a simple device. They were interested and engaged in the product,” Sanskriti recalls.

This led them to research braille, which became their first introduction to the gap in braille literacy in India. After consulting with various stakeholders, they identified the main issue — a shortage of educators and outdated teaching methods.

Braille education demands significant human involvement, with teachers needing to dedicate their full attention and time to students.

This motivated them to work in the field further. They co-founded Thinkerbell Labs, an ed-tech platform in 2016.

And their first innovation is Annie, a braille device which works like a personal tutor.

a child using Annie
A child using Annie

Named after Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher, the device has a braille display, keyboard, and a digital braille slate that comes with audio-guided lessons in regional languages, as well as English. It also features games to familiarise children with braille.

“Students often find it very difficult and rather boring to learn braille which results in many of them losing interest in education. Annie is the world’s first braille literacy solution that helps learners to read, write and type braille in their own regional languages,” says Saif, adding that it offers a fun and interactive experience for children.

Saif adds that Thinkerbell Labs have established Annie smart classes in more than 80 learning centres across 16 states. They’ve also launched their US variant ‘Polly’ in the United States and want to expand to the UK, Europe, South Africa, Australia, and the Middle East.

Watch this video to know how Annie is trying to make education inclusive:

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Edited by Pranita Bhat

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