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Old 20th June 2021, 13:10   #1
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Default Leela : My invention which did not change the world

TLDR;


Once upon a time I made the news.
And I rediscovered the proof recently while cleaning up my old backup drive.
And since I am shameless, and it's Sunday, and I have nothing better to do, I am tooting my own horn here.
Bow before me muggles.

Long version:


Circa 2000 was probably the most stressful time of my life.

Having been a huge fan of Mark Twain, I had decided long time back to never let schooling interfere with my education. So after joining college, I decided not to bother graduating and spent all the college years thoroughly enjoying myself, where pretty girls, rock climbing and trekking took up most of my time.

After three years were up, I started off in a small business manufacturing electronic components. Within a decade, I managed to expand it, find a girl to marry (she already knew about my stellar academic record as well as my girlfriends over the years) and settle down. Life had never been better.

Come the new millennium and I celebrated it with a bang. By then I was father to a 3 year old princess and I looking forward to the next decade with absolute enthusiasm. Alas, before I knew, all my well laid plans turned to ashes. The Sukhram scandal hit the newspapers, as well as my business. I had gone into an expansion mode just the earlier year, and my revenue took a major hit. On top of it I owned a pile of money to the banks.

So as I sat there in my office, chain smoking, desperately trying to work a way out, the phone rang. It was my elder brother. It was mainly to see if I was doing OK, did I need money, was I smoking too much and had I thought of a new trade, like computer programming.

Initially I was Meh! Computers! Till that moment, I had thought of them as dumb machines, with not much practical use for me. But after a brief discussion with my brother (He is an engineer, who shifted to IT after completing his MS in US) I decided it was worth a shot. So I got a desktop computer thanks to a loan from my dad, a book titled Let Us C by Prof. Yashwant Kanetkar and started to learn programming. And I got hooked. This was easy and I really enjoyed coding. (Doing only those things which bring me joy has been always my motto). Some months down the line, I had learnt, C as well as Java.

Unity is strength.
Knowledge is power.
Attitude is everything.

I had the power. I was the master of the programming universe.

Or so I thought.
Sadly, the HR people in IT companies had other thoughts.

Obviously something was amiss. I need more knowledge. And as I knew from experience, experience was the best way to gain knowledge. After all, not all things are taught in books and schools.

So I began pestering my friends. Did anyone need any first class software done at throw away prices? After some time I did manage to convince one (I suck at marketing). When the software was successfully delivered, and I got compensated, I was on top of the world. That pittance was the only thing I had earned after a long time.

And before I knew it, it was gone.
Now what?

By now, after 2 years, I had begun to understand the IT world better and I realised, since nobody was willing to give me space in the industry, I would have to carve a niche for myself. And I hit on the super duper idea of coming up with a hardware and a custom software to run it. Pretty smart eh?

Back then, my rental domicile was very near to a school for blind girls. My wife used to volunteer there as a braille "writer" and through her I had become aware of the problems they faced. Thinking over it, I realised technology was the answer.
So I got down to it, and with a little help from my friend designing the PCB, in a few months it was ready.

Name:  Leela.jpg
Views: 5691
Size:  90.8 KB

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Leela, the braille reader.

I spent the next 18-20 months criss travelling between Pune, Mumbai, Nashik and Nagpur (thanks Dad for lending me your car and money to rent the laptop for the demos), and managed to sell a grand total of...drumroll please....one!
The customer? The blind school near my home.

Needless to say I was depressed. All these efforts and nothing to show for it.
And one day my phone rang. It was Zahra Khan, the local TOI reporter. She had seen the device in action and wondered if I would I be interested in answering a few questions for the paper? My instant reaction was this was some prank (yeah I have those kind of friends) but she eventually got me convinced she was the real deal.


Leela : My invention which did not change the world-leela-toi.jpg

And that is how I made it to the news.
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Old 20th June 2021, 13:18   #2
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Default Re: Leela : My invention which did not change the world

Quote:
Originally Posted by RedTerrano View Post

TLDR;


Once upon a time I made the news.
....
And that is how I made it to the news.
You've lived a life less ordinary. This is a story that you can tell your grandkids with pride! Keep at it, never mind the outcome! Nishfal tapasya, as Shri Krishna says in the Gita.
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Old 20th June 2021, 14:15   #3
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Default Re: Leela : My invention which did not change the world

Red Terrano,

Hearty congratulations on the successful launch of your invention and putting it to use in the real world. This is a remarkable gesture of inventiveness married to compassion for the needy. May your invention fulfill the needs of many less fortunate than us.

It would be nice if you can share exactly how a blind person would use it. Does it create a braille imprint on a sheet of paper converting what is on the PC screen and then the blind person can read the braille text?

Best of luck.

V.Narayan
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Old 20th June 2021, 14:36   #4
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Default Re: Leela : My invention which did not change the world

Hey Red Terrano , thanks for sharing. I often read your posts and now this post is like a motivational story to me. I am really happy you tried and were successful in inventing the device. Often marketing is the most difficult thing which all inventors face. You still tried!

Thanks again for sharing this with us and hope to see more inventions from you in future.
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Old 20th June 2021, 15:17   #5
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Default Re: Leela : My invention which did not change the world

Congratulations Red Terrano!

You have definitely changed the world for the blind and I am sure their blessings will give you power in whatever you do in life. Kudos to your hard work and determination in seeing the project through despite the difficulties of life.

Please do explain the workings of your invention as Mr. Narayan has also mentioned. Would love to know how it enriches the lives of people who live in darkness.

All the best!

Cheers

Last edited by Cyborg : 20th June 2021 at 15:19.
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Old 20th June 2021, 15:34   #6
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Default Re: Leela : My invention which did not change the world

Well, you did this before Shark Tank came around. I have met such inventors before the Internet era too. I specifically remember one guy in the late 80s who modified his Padmini car, so that people without legs can drive. After some exposure in the print media, nothing ever happened. His house was full of electro-mechanical gadgets, and he was puzzled why no one wants to buy his stuff.

One thing Shark Tank showed to lots of people is the business side of invention game. Building something useful is not the same as building something that will sell. I too learned it hard way, as I created lots of software products that were useful, but couldn't sell. These days I avoid building stuff unless the market potential is really strong.
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Old 20th June 2021, 15:34   #7
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Default Re: Leela : My invention which did not change the world

You created something, and no marketer (or lack of one) is going to take the pride of that away. Kudos!
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Old 20th June 2021, 17:23   #8
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Default Re: Leela : My invention which did not change the world

Hey RedTerrano, nice to read about this. I have felt most of the BHPians to be talented in one way or the other. Like others have said the marketing side is also important for a product to reach the masses. Anyways do explain this invention in detail.

Sometimes we may not get rewarded for our efforts and that is the way things are. But to make a difference, even if it is for just one human being, is to be considered the biggest achievement one can make.
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Old 20th June 2021, 18:32   #9
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Default Re: Leela : My invention which did not change the world

Congratulations. It is heatwarming and very motivating to read such inventions. It takes a level of compassion and selflessness to work on an equipment which is used by a niche audience and that too are less privileged than folks like most of us in the forum.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RedTerrano View Post
And I hit on the super duper idea of coming up with a hardware and a custom software to run it. Pretty smart eh?
I would say brilliant. Even Apple and Tesla who are the forerunners ( in their respective fields) of specific purpose hardware with a custom software, were late to the party than Leela. Apple iphone - 2007; Tesla model S design and launch - 2010~2012; Leela - 2002~2003

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 20th June 2021, 20:00   #10
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Default Re: Leela : My invention which did not change the world

May not have changed the external world, but surely would have given you much education to positively impact your world!

Thanks for sharing. While dominantly being on the R&D side of work-life, I have lately been dabbling a bit with IP licensing as well (in and out). Brings a different perspective to inventions (the engineering and science), commercialization, and productization.

Many good inventions seemingly do not find enough impetus towards commercialization.
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Old 21st June 2021, 12:00   #11
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Default Re: Leela : My invention which did not change the world

Thanks guys.
Here is the working for all those who asked.

Any character, alphabet or number is written in Braille as a combination of six dots.

Leela : My invention which did not change the world-braille-alphabet.png
The alphabet

Leela : My invention which did not change the world-braille-translation.png
Braille "text"

It is "read" by sensing the pattern with the fingertips.
Name:  Braille book.jpg
Views: 3915
Size:  57.0 KB

If you look at the hardware pic above, you will notice the six pin cell at the centre, on which the reader will lay the finger. The software translates the "normal" text, and forms the required pattern on the hardware.

This totally eliminates the need for printed braille books. They are costly to make (if done manually) or the printers are too costly. Also their shelf life is low, as the paper dots tend to flatten, making them unreadable.
And of course, lets not forget paper = trees.
Go green! Save paper!

And just to clear some apparent confusion, the news article is from 2003.
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Old 21st June 2021, 12:54   #12
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Default Re: Leela : My invention which did not change the world

Quote:
Originally Posted by V.Narayan View Post
It would be nice if you can share exactly how a blind person would use it. Does it create a braille imprint on a sheet of paper converting what is on the PC screen and then the blind person can read the braille text?
Quote:
Originally Posted by RedTerrano View Post
Here is the working for all those who asked.


If you look at the hardware pic above, you will notice the six pin cell at the centre, on which the reader will lay the finger. The software translates the "normal" text, and forms the required pattern on the hardware.
Interesting to say the least. I am guessing that you attach this device to the old parallel port ( or printer port) and you type in the book or text that you want to read on an application software and the software translates the text letter by letter. The device then outputs the text by forming the braille pattern on the six pins which are located at the center?.

Last edited by srini1785 : 21st June 2021 at 13:22.
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Old 21st June 2021, 13:09   #13
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Default Re: Leela : My invention which did not change the world

@Red Terrano: Are you still doing the computers/readers? Or would still be interested do something like this? I am asking because my Mother now in her retirement time is scribe for visually impaired students and some of them are suffering from the struggles, to solve which you invented "Leela". Although, today they have lot of other advanced equipments, it would be worth checking with a fellow BHPian if he is still doing some charity/low cost development. May be we can come up with a different solution now to challenge the status quo.
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Old 21st June 2021, 16:47   #14
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Default Re: Leela : My invention which did not change the world

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Originally Posted by srini1785 View Post
Interesting to say the least. I am guessing that you attach this device to the old parallel port ( or printer port) and you type in the book or text that you want to read on an application software and the software translates the text letter by letter. The device then outputs the text by forming the braille pattern on the six pins which are located at the center?.
Yes you are correct.
Of course you need not type the book. Just load the appropriate file from the local or network drive and it was ready to go.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlphaKilo View Post
@Red Terrano: Are you still doing the computers/readers? Or would still be interested do something like this?
This was almost two decades ago and since then I have moved on. I no longer do the braille stuff but I am still in IT.
I am open to revisiting the project provided someone shows me the money and can solve the marketing problem.
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Old 21st June 2021, 17:35   #15
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Default Re: Leela : My invention which did not change the world

Quote:
Originally Posted by RedTerrano View Post

TLDR;


Ladies and gentlemen, meet Leela, the braille reader.
It is one thing to have an idea but to turn it into a product requires dedication. Congratulations.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlphaKilo View Post
May be we can come up with a different solution now to challenge the status quo.
Quote:
Originally Posted by RedTerrano View Post
I am open to revisiting the project provided someone shows me the money and can solve the marketing problem.
I am just thinking aloud, I feel instead of this being a book reader, which might not have a market in today's world, if this could be reimagined as a tool to teach brail, it might open up new opportunities. A small, low-cost, hand-held version that translates alphabets, numbers, and simple pre-programmed words into braille?

Last edited by Jaguar : 21st June 2021 at 17:35. Reason: Typo
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