Annie: The technology sure to break the barrier of blindness
Annie: The technology sure to break the barrier of blindness

Annie: The technology sure to break the barrier of blindness

A Bengaluru-based company, Thinkerbell Labs, founded by Aman Srivastava, Sanskriti Dawle, Saif Shaikh and Dilip Ramesh, all being engineering graduates from BITS Pilani, Goa has introduced an instrument to help begin smart classes for the visually impaired.

These four managed to turn their college project into a full-fledged business by developing a self-learning device for the visually impaired as a part of their college research project. They first introduced a credit-card-sized computer called the Raspberry Pi and audio guides to make the learning of Braille an easier task. But this rudimentary prototype turned out to be a success when it was tested in a Hyderabad blind school.

The nobles had taken care of a big gap in this aspect as Braille is a perceptible language and an educator must hold an apprentice’s hand to explain her the script. But adding to the disadvantage, this type of one-on-one communication means the rest of the class is idle most of the time which indirectly delays the education course.  Therefore, these graduates decided to influence technology further and shape a scalable learning answer. They also decided to name their device Annie, after Anne Sullivan, who educated the legendary Helen Keller.

Annie showcases a Braille display and a keyboard along with a digital Braille slate and audio-generated interactive lessons to make sure that the self-learning activities like gamified exams and quizzes are effective. A companion app called Helios can be used by the teacher to monitor the student’s progress and also schedule classes to impart lessons simultaneously. This instrument is available in five different Indian languages along with English. The company has a manufacturing unit in Pune and can generate 500 units quarterly. 

For its operations and success, the company had successfully raised 1.3 Crore in angel investment from the Indian Angel Network and Anand Mahindra, CEO of Mahindra Group. In the Indian market, Thinkerbell sells Annie as a smart class solution that contains Annie toolkits, secondary infrastructure (server and software with localised content) and resources for a teacher’s training course.

The normal price of setting up each schoolroom is 10 lakhs, and the major clienteles are the government-run special schools and numerous charitable organisations. In one of its operations, the start-up fitted 20 Braille-teaching devices in a government school in Ranchi in partnership with the government of Jharkhand. Other key clienteles include the government of Telangana and L.V. Prasad Eye Hospital in Hyderabad with the Wales Sensory Service being its International client. The start-up also plans to enter the US market by 2020 and also plans to sell nearly 4,000 products in the coming two years.



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