“Think of closing your eyes and read the book lying on your table”

There are more than 253 million visually impaired people across the globe. The plight of the visually-impaired in the pursuit of their academic, professional and individual aspirations is due to the stark lack of:

  • User-friendly information and instructions
  • Sensitivity towards the challenges they face
  • Special educators and teaching facilities

This is why they find it difficult to flourish informal education, career and economic growth.

In a country like India with a large chunk of the population struggling with a number of social, economic and physical challenges, the founders Abhishek and Bonny saw how a large number of people in India and abroad suffered from visual impairment. They travelled in and around Nashik and Mumbai conducting extensive on field surveys to understand the problems faced by the visually impaired. Moreover, they realized that devices meant for them are not very user friendly. That, along with the existing devices not being developed to help students and adults who were involved in the education sector, inspired them to improve the life of such individuals by developing the technology to assist them. They were subsequently joined in their endeavour by their co-founder Akshita.

 Kibo XS acts as a great enabler for the visually challenged.

Started in 2017 at the Digital Impact Square (DISQ), Trestle Labs started working towards making the world resources inclusive for the print disabled i.e. persons with blindness, dyslexia and elderly people.

Through this experience, they learned that the education sector dealing with the visually impaired suffers from lack of attention with regards to study material. Additionally, traditional methods like Braille and Audio Recordings take months to convert into accessible formats. One time they met a blind couple who gave their one-year-old daughter expired medicines which caused her rashes since they were not able to read the expiration date on the strip.

After this and similar experiences, they set out and developed a prototype that allowed the users to capture any text and hear it in their own language. The initial user tests gave positive results and feedback. This innovation “Kibo” (which means hope in Japanese, is an acronym for Knowledge in a Box) enables the person with visual disability to hear all kinds of printed textual material in real-time in their desired languages. Along with this, they developed a “Kibo XS Device”. Weighing just 400 gms, it is foldable, thus allowing the user to carry it anywhere. Once it is connected to a mobile app or Web portal (allowing it to be connected to the laptops and PCs), it can read out printed texts in real-time across multiple Indian and foreign languages.

Kibo app and web portal linkage helps to explore the digital resources easily.

Kibo can read up to 20 Indian Languages and translate them into further 100+ languages. The book scanned can be saved and the user need not scan it again. Kibo App offers one-stop access to content from multiple channels including documents (printed and handwritten), books, online digital libraries, universities, local publishers as well as self-curated content based on user’s reading and learning needs. Containing content in 10 Indian Languages with over 8.5 lakh e-books on various subjects, this app allows them to move back and forth making notes and saving bookmarks on their smartphones. Kibo XS costs 1/6th of the price of English-only Readers being imported in India currently.

Kibo XS costs 1/6th of the price of English-only readers being imported in India currently.

Through their device they have seen their users feel empowered and become independent, helping them feel more inclusive. Trestle Labs today has a wide range of clients, from NGOs, libraries and universities like IIMs. Their innovation is a concrete solution for millions of visually-impaired who aspire to achieve but are forced to give up their dream due to lack of accessible resources, technical support and infrastructure.

Abhishek Baghel, Founder, Trestle Labs. An engineer, social innovator and a technology enthusiast, he has worked in the field of Electronics, Image Processing, Mobile Computing and Machine Learning.

Saurabh Sharma is an engineer currently working in the IT sector. His interests are football, books, shows, movies and general trivia.

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