Teenager gets financial backing to make low-cost Braille printer

Thirteen-year-old Shubham Banerjee won't have ask his parents for cash to make a low-cost Braille printer

Shubham Banerjee of Braigo Labs with Braigo v2.0 Braille printer

Shubham Banerjee of Braigo Labs with Braigo v2.0 Braille printer

Thirteen-year-old Shubham Banerjee had to borrow money from his parents to create his first low-cost Braille printer, but he won't need to rely on the kindness of friends and family for more cash any time soon.

Intel has invested an undisclosed amount in Banerjee's company, Braigo Labs, providing the funds needed to develop a new Braille printer called Braigo v2.0. Intel described Banerjee's printer as being disruptive and a difference-maker.

Banerjee made headlines earlier this year with a homegrown $US349.99 Braille printer made using Lego parts from a Mindstorm robotics development kit. Called Braigo, the printer was less expensive than other Braille printers, which typically go for over $US1000.

The Braille printer started off as an idea for a science-fair project, and Banerjee had a wider goal to make technology accessible to the visually impaired. The printer ended up on display at the Maker Faire held at the White House in June. Braigo v2.0, which uses Intel's low-power Edison development board, was demonstrated at the Intel Developer Forum in September.

Banerjee is now developing a more sophisticated version of the Braigo that looks like a conventional inkjet printer, as opposed to a mesh of Lego parts. It accepts character input from a device connected to the printer, which is then printed out in Braille.

In a statement, Banerjee said he'll now be able to work with professionals to develop and bring Braigo v2.0 to more than 50 million blind people worldwide. At IDF, he said he hopes to keep the Braille printers affordable.

The "maker" concept -- building electronics and robots from scratch -- is being promoted in schools to draw the interest of students in science, technology and math. Teenagers have shown innovative products like robotic prosthetics and a 3D pancake printer. Thirteen-year old Sylvia Todd has a hit online show' "Sylvia's Super-Awesome Maker Show," in which she makes electronics, robots or even paper rockets, while explaining the science behind it.

The cash infusion in Braigo was part of a larger $US62 million investment made in 16 companies by Intel Capital. The Braigo investment aligns with the company's "effort to make everything smart and connected best with Intel," an Intel spokeswoman said in an email.

The chip maker also invested in wearable companies like Avegant, which is making a mobile personal theater product called Glyph. Glyph's development was originally funded through a Kickstarter campaign.

Intel also invested in mobile, hardware and software companies. A standout is storage virtualiSation company Israeli company, Stratoscale, which was founded by Ariel Maislos, who previously founded solid-state drive company Anobit Technologies. Anobit was ultimately acquired by Apple.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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