A 13-year-old Indian entrepreneur in California has started a company Braigo Labs to develop low-cost machines to print Braille – tactile writing system written with embossed paper for the visually impaired.
Tech giant Intel Corporation has in November invested an undisclosed amount in the company of the eighth-grader Shubham Banerjee, who lives in Silicon Valley suburb of Santa Clara.
The boy was motivated to start his own printing company after he learnt that a Braille printer costs at least $2,000 ( ₹123,580) and weighs around 20 pounds (9kg). He came to know about the cost after he made his school science project – a Braille printer with a Lego robotics kit, according to Hindustan Times report.
"I just thought that price should not be there. I know that there is a simpler way to do this," he said.
Shubham is working to develop the low-cost desktop Braille printer with a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit having less weight and cost around $350.
The printer he is working on will print Braille reading materials on paper with raised dots instead of ink and it will be possible to print it from a personal computer or an electronic device.
"My end goal would probably be having most of the blind people ... using my Braille printer," said Shubham.
He received several prizes and support from visually challenged people for his science project and last summer he opened his Braigo Labs, which was initially sponsored by his father who gave him $35,000.
"We as parents started to get involved more, thinking that he's on to something and this innovation process has to continue," said his father Niloy Banerjee.
"I'm really proud of Shubham. What he has thought, I think most adults should have thought about it. And coming out of my 13-year-old, I do feel very proud," said his mother Malini Banerjee.
Intel executives are impressed with what Shubham has achieved at such a young age and they believe he is the youngest entrepreneur to get a sponsor for his start-up.
"He's solving a real problem, and he wants to go off and disrupt an existing industry. And that's really what it's all about," said director of Inventor Platforms at Intel Edward Ross.
Braigo Labs is hiring professional engineers and advisers who will help develop the printers Shubham plans to develop. Shubham's company is planning to bring out a prototype for test at organisations serving the blind, this summer and finally put it out in the market later this year, his father said.
One of the adviser to Braigo Labs, Henry Wedler, who himself is blind and working on a doctorate in chemistry at the University of California said, "This Braille printer is a great way for people around the world who really don't have many resources at all to learn Braille and to use it practically".