by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
A research project by four developers from India has led to what their company, Thinkerbell Labs, calls the “world’s first self-learning Braille device.” Annie, named after Helen Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy, is a machine with hardware and software tools designed to let children learn braille at their own pace. Currently available in English and several Indian languages, Annie has its own curriculum and also allows teachers to assign homework and tests to students. Annie was developed to fill the critical need to advance braille literacy around the world. For decades, teaching braille has revolved around a close one-on-one relationship between the teacher and the student. However, even in the United States, where braille literacy is only at ten percent, there are not enough teachers to make this practical for most blind children, and braille literacy in India is at one percent. Thinkerbell Labs, which has already partnered with the governments of several Indian states to introduce Annie into special education and mainstream schools, has the ambitious goal of revolutionizing the way braille literacy is taught around the world through technology. This mission has earned them a spot on Shark Tank, excerpted on You Tube. They were also profiled in an article by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and another in the Indian Express. Here is the link to Annie on the Thinkerbell Labs website.