At 12, Indian-origin Shubham Banerjee used his Lego toys to build a low-cost Braille printer. Now 13-year-old, Banerjee, is working with IT giant Microsoft to integrate his invention with Windows.
Many life-changing events took place in between. He started his own company Braigo (conflated Braille and Lego) Labs, and became the youngest entrepreneur to pick up venture capital funding.
Banerjee is still in middle school, and lives in California with his family — mother Malini is the president of his company, and father Neil is his mentor.
It all started with just pure curiosity: how do blind people read.
“I discovered that typical Braille printers cost about $2,000 (about Rs 126,000) or even more, and I felt that was unnecessarily expensive for someone already at a disadvantage,” Banerjee told a Windows blogger earlier this week. “So, I put my brain to work, and the first thing that came to mind was to create an alternative using my favorite toy.”
After seven attempts, he finally had a working printer, and it had cost him only $350 to build.
“I achieved an 82% reduction in cost and have been overwhelmed by the encouraging feedback from both the sighted and the blind,” he was quoted in the blog.
However, he didn’t keep the device to himself. He put together a do-it-yourself manual and posted it online for whoever wanted to make it or use it.
He then upgraded his invention to Braigo 2.0, which has been hailed as a “first low-cost, internet-of-things enabled, silent and lightweight” Braille printer.
And, now Microsoft. Banerjee was invited by Microsoft to showcase his Braigo 2.0 printer at a tech fair organised by the company.
“Our relationship with Microsoft will help Braigo achieve a seamless experience for a visually-impaired person who wants to use a computer at home or at the office to print documents for offline reading,” he told the Windows blogger.
“Also, think about the banks, the government institutions or even the libraries where Windows-based computers are widely used. They will all benefit from having a Braigo to provide accessibility services to their visually impaired customers,” he added.
He is targeting a price point of $500 dollars or less for the printer to ensure affordability, as per reports.