OwnFone will 3D print dedicated Braille phones for blind people

Phone manufacturer OwnFone, which has previously hit headlines with its simple, pictoral mobile devices for children and senior citizens has now devised a version of its 1stFone for blind people.

The phone itself is the same small plastic device with just a few of the most important buttons, but thanks to 3D printing techniques, each button is personalised with specific Braille commands or names.

Both the front and the back of the device are 3D printed, with the Braille icons joined by tactile volume up and volume down buttons. The process keeps the cost down, allowing OwnFone to be the first to release a fully-working Braille phone in the UK.

"3D printing... provides a fast and cost-effective way to create personalised Braille buttons," said inventor Tom Sunderland.

Speaking to the BBC, he also revealed that the 3D printing method could also benefit blind people who cannot read Braille.

"The phone can be personalised with two or four Braille buttons which are pre-programmed to call friends, family, carers or the emergency services," he said.

"This is the first phone to have a 3D printed keypad and for people that can't read Braille, we can print texture and raised text on the phone. Our 3D phone printing process is patent pending."

The Braille version of the 1stFone will cost £60 when ordered through the company's website. It can be customised to assign family, friends and other specific numbers to each button so a call can be made with just one press.

READ: Ownfone makes its kid-friendly 1stFone even more kid-friendly with images instead of numbers