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The Movers and Shakers

For your reading convenients below you will find all the Movers and Shakers published in 2019

January 2019

Welcome to 2019! To begin this New Year, I conducted a Q&A with Avinash Kothuri, the head of sales for Thinkerbell Labs. Please read below to learn about Thinkerbell Labs and the device they have created.

What is Thinkerbell Labs?
Thinkerbell Labs is an ed-tech startup based out of Bangalore, India, and London, UK working towards Inclusive education. We are trying to solve the problem of low braille literacy rates among the visually impaired. Our brainchild, Annie, is the world’s first braille literacy device for the visually impaired. Annie can help a person with vision loss in learning to read, write and type in Braille, on their own.

How and why was Annie created?
One of our four co-founders studied at a school close to a school for the blind where he would often volunteer through his schooling years. He was moved by the massive difference in learning pedagogy in his school and the school for the blind. Thinkerbell Labs was established to make a significant social impact by building a new braille learning ecosystem for the visually impaired.
Thinkerbell Labs started as a college side project dubbed as Project Mudra. We used a Raspberry Pi to build an alphabet song teacher for the visually impaired as the first prototype of a larger mission that we had envisioned. The audio guided alphabet song teacher had a refreshable braille display (RBD) tactile interface for the kids to learn letters in braille. When the project was taken for field trials to a blind school in Goa, we were amazed to see the enthusiasm with which the students engaged with it. After a series of iterations and field trials, we developed Annie, the world’s first braille literacy device for the visually impaired.
Annie’s first prototype was developed and tested in September 2014. We completed Annie’s hardware development for India, UK, and the US in February 2018. Annie was launched at the VIEW conference in Birmingham, UK, in March 2018.
The major highlight for us in the year 2018 was our first deployment - India’s first braille smart class in Ranchi, Jharkhand. This project was launched in partnership with the Government of Jharkhand.

Why is it called Annie?
Annie is named after Anne Sullivan; Helen Keller’s instructor and lifelong companion.

Exactly what does Annie do?
Annie is the world’s first braille literacy device that helps a visually impaired person learn to read, write, and type in Braille, on their own. Annie guides users through audio-tactile lessons and helps them complete courses covering grade 1 and grade 2 Braille. The coursework is interactive and gamified to keep the student engaged through their lessons and making learning fun. Annie’s lessons also provide instant feedback addressing the pain-point of delayed feedback cycles encountered when traditional braille teaching methods are used. The connected nature of the device ensures that multiple students can compete against each other in Braille games and challenges, making it a collaborative, community-driven experience. Annie is accompanied by a companion app to schedule tests and homework, experience new content and download it on the device. The teachers/parents also have a dashboard that lets them track the performance and usage of the student.

How can one purchase Annie?
To buy an Annie, email me at Sales@ThinkerbellLabs.com
You could also contact us at +91 956-190-5809 or +44 20 81237766.

Is it just for kids?
We are currently targeting students from grades 1 through 5. This is the age group where a child learns Braille most effectively. However, Annie can be used by any age group to learn braille. As the product and the content ecosystems evolve, it would enable users of all ages to pick up Braille related skills that aid in higher education and employment.

What is the feedback you are receiving from this device?
Annie has been developed through a cycle of consultations and feedback received from industry experts over the last few years. A few institutions we have worked with include Royal National Institute of Blind People and New College Worcester in the UK, and LV Prasad Eye Institute, National Association for the Blind, National Institute for the Visually handicapped and SRMAB in India. The positive feedback received from these institutions has been very encouraging to us.
We successfully launched India’s first Braille smart class at a Government school for the Blind in Ranchi, Jharkhand, in association with the state government there. 20 Annie devices were set up to teach braille to 24 visually impaired students in the school aged between 6-18 years. All 24 students had an overwhelming response to Annie right after their first use. Their inquisitive minds have been kept engaged through the interactive gamified content resulting in learning braille at a faster pace. Teachers have been able to supervise multiple students at the same time and track their progress. Annie was received with great enthusiasm by the teachers as they could now monitor 24 students at the same time.
As of today, Annie has been used for over 550 hours by them, with the average session time being 35 minutes. Students have logged over 1200+ sessions on Annie so far, with the longest session lasting for more than 3 hours.

Do you have any plans to upgrade/ alter the device, or create something new?
Our goal is to make Annie a one-stop solution for Braille literacy and digital skill development among the visually impaired. We are working towards creating interactive content for all age groups, right from Grade 1 braille to learning requirements for higher grade students. We are also in the process of creating versatile content that could be accessed on other refreshable braille readers. We are working on progressing from early education to employability.

What is your contact information?
Our Website: ThinkerbellLabs.com

Email: ContactUs@ThinkerbellLabs.com , sales@thinkerbelllabs.com

Phone: +91 956-190-5809 or +91 953-890-4328.
Facebook: Thinkerbell Labs.
Twitter: @thinkerbelllabs.
Instagram: thinkerbell_labs.

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