An inclusive speaker design that lets the blind see through music

Sometimes we can take the gift of sight for granted – we are fortunate to be reading this right now but we forget that vision is used beyond just reading too. Think about it, to listen to music we use an app to select a genre or skip a song, to cook we use a recipe book or Google it quickly which shows that we are dependent on our sight even to make the most of our other sensory experiences! Stephen Ow and Kah Kiat wanted this feeling to be accessible to all so they created ‘Note’ – a book that is a mixtape for the visually impaired or the blind. I love the name Note, it strikes the right ‘chord’ with the music and book lovers!

Note is basically a smart speaker but in the shape of a book. Why shaped like a book? Because it is one of the first things that the visually impaired/blind demographic would be likely to pick up for education or entertainment thanks to Braille’s global use. Hence, Note combines the inherent behavior (gestures one makes when reading a book) with the language they know to give them the ability to listen to music without having the need to “see” the screen of an app. You may wonder why not use a voice-controlled smart speaker? The designers wanted to make a device with a personal touch rather than relying on the gift of speech that the user may or may not have, so to make this accessible to every kind of blind person, Note was given its unique form and function.

The book inspired jukebox is created on the pillars of inclusive design that optimizes the users’ existing skillset and especially focusing on “touch” which is crucial for the visually impaired. Books are easier to operate than speakers because they don’t require any set-up. The user can flip a page for a new genre or flip back to play another song. A cool feature is how the volume control works – it is adjusted on how wide the book is opened. The pages are double-hinged which allows for a small electrical box to be placed in the device for sensors and switches inspired by how we open musical greeting cards. Each page has the details in Braille so the user can enjoy their music independently and that itself is a moment they must treasure given that almost every other activity involves assistance.

It is truly the little things that give joy in life, like seeing music and reading through speakers!

Designers: Stephen Ow and Kah Kiat

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