Smartwatches enable users to not only tell the time, but be notified of calls, receive and read messages, and even monitor their heart rate. For a long time, smartwatch options for blind and visually impaired people relied on audio messages. Enter Dot Watch, which uses braille to tell the time, date, receive message alerts, notifications, and more.
In early June 2021, Reddit users praised the “World’s First Braille Smartwatch” in a post that got tens of thousands of votes, though this is a product that has existed since at least 2017.
According to the South Korean company Dot Inc., this is the first smartwatch of its kind that relies on braille technology to tell the time, date, and receive message alerts. Indeed, any reported instances that we found of smartwatch products for the visually impaired entail relying on sound to tell the time or read out messages.
Eric Kim, CEO of Dot, launched his business in 2014 and by 2017 had started selling the smartwatch. In an interview with Nikkei Asia, he said, “I was surprised to see that few things have changed in the braille market for the last few decades. Visually-impaired people still use big and expensive devices and materials to read and get information.”
Park In-beom, an employee who was born with a visual-impairment joined the company and helped test the product. While collecting feedback from other blind customers, he learned they were happy they could check messages on the device without being overheard by others. Usually they have to hear messages through a voice recording, and some in South Korea set the voice in English or to a fast speed setting to avoid being overheard, Park said.
The device features a braille display made up of 24 small pins. According to its website: “The DOT Watch has been developed specifically for visually impaired people. Its touch display, in which 24 dots rise and fall, spells out words in braille allowing you to check the time privately.”
A number of blind and visually impaired people have reviewed the watch online. One user shared both positive and negative feedback on the watch, saying that ultimately she thinks “it doesn’t do enough.”
Another user showed how the watch told him that he received a WhatsApp message from another person, gave him the person’s name, and informed him it was a voice message.
We found many examples of watches that simply tell the time using braille, but none that integrate that into a smartphone. The watch even has a braille dictionary and vibrates to notify users of a call and displays the name of the caller.