Samsung Innovation Award winner Saurabh Sanyal's invention will help millions set their sights on a better future, literally!

Thirty nine million people around the world are visually-challenged. A whopping 90 per cent of them live in developing countries. Even more staggering is the fact that over half of this population lives in India. Though even the World Health Organisation recognises the nation's efforts to provide funding for eye care services even at the grassroot level, the lack of vision is a problem that we are battling with at a national level. When one thinks of a life devoid of the power of sight, one can think of the practical difficulties that the individual will have to face — difficulty to move around, to grapple with written communication, etc. Yet, there is also a larger, less obvious effect of such big statistics.

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Why should this be so? Why should only the well-off be given access to empowerment by learning and using Braille?

How can we let affordability be the sole link preventing millions of people in our country from living a life of independence?

It was these questions that prodded Saurabh Sanyal, an IIT-Delhi student to invent a Refreshable Braille Display, which went on to win the Samsung Innovation Awards 2011.

Developing the prototype in the form of an array of electro-magnetic actuators, this invention allowed the visually challenged to not only read but also recognise geometries and process digital information from a computer screen.

Realising that a large part of the target audience was from low income background, Saurabh developed a low cost, simple product catering to their needs.

Taking around a year from inception to prototype, the product has even been tested on a small group of people who reacted well.

Being a student of a premier institution while also working on a project of this magnitude must have been taxing from the aspect of time management. Ask Saurabh how he did it and he easily says, “Yes, it was an issue. We had other courses to do as well but I managed to balance the two.”

For Saurabh and his Refreshable Braille Display, the way forward lies in commercialisation.

Working towards mass production of the product, he says, will ensure that it is bettered over time and all the loopholes that were otherwise overlooked are dealt with.


How did the Samsung Innovation Award 2011 change his life? Are awards important to young entrepreneurs like himself? Enthuses Saurabh, “It is very encouraging to be recognised at this stage as it motivates us to work towards innovative products and solutions. For me, personally, Samsung has been a boon as they have agreed to support further research.”

Saurabh Sanyal is a student who decided to make a difference, a young man who was aware of the larger picture and worked towards doing his bit to make his society a better, more inclusive place to live in. Talk to him about his work and you will realise the awards are not the reason he is doing what he does. To him, it is the prospect of changing lives that matter. When his Refreshable Braille Display hits the market, millions of Indians will, for the first time, see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Yashasvini is a student of IIT-M.


At WorkSeptember 24, 2010