[BCAB] A brief summary of Canute

Jackie Brown jackieannbrown62 at gmail.com
Fri Feb 24 09:45:38 GMT 2017

I was invited to the National Council of the Blind Ireland (NCBI) in Dublin
yesterday to have some hands-on with Canute from Bristol Braille.

Bearing in mind that this is still a work in progress, I was surprised by
its weight and size.  I could bearly lift it off the table, and while I
appreciate my back condition precludes me from dealing with weight, I can
say for sure that it wouldn't be something you would want to carry around
with you!

Canute is rectangular in shape with nine lines of 40 Braille characters.
The lines are fairly well spaced out, giving you the impression you are
reading Braille in double-line spacing.  At the start of each line is a
button which allows you to select the item you want to read in the unit's

There are three buttons below the reading area.  From left to right, these
are Previous, Menu, and Next.  When you have finished reading a page of
Braille, press Next to start the procedure of refreshing the display.
Similarly, press Previous to go back a page.

You put information into Canute via USB stick.  The prototype I saw holds
32gb of internal storage.  Press the Menu button to transfer your documents
from USB stick to Canute, then use any one of the nine buttons described
above to select the item you want to read.  If you press the Menu button
twice, it takes you to a system menu which allows you to re-calibrate
Braille cells, shut the machine down, etc.

I have fed some comments back to the developers.  It has the potential to be
a really interesting piece of kit, but there are some aspects that need
sorting out before it could go on sale.  I found lots of spurious dots
creeping into the text I was reading, and needed to re-calibrate the display
several times.  I found it quite slow to refresh a page.  It obviously
starts with the top line of your document and refreshes line by line.  I was
able to keep up with this easily by the time it reached the bottom line.  I
also found firmness of Braille too harsh.  I realise this is very
subjective, but it was incredibly scratchy to me, and would make my fingers
bleed in no time.

Canute has no translation program, so I was a little hampered by reading
computer Braille which is not my favourite grade.

Again, I would be very concerned by weight, it is definitely more suited for
a static environment like a classroom, museum, library or workstation.

All that said, I still couldn't help loving the idea of reading nine lines
of Braille, and would consider purchasing one if the price was right, and
bugs ironed out.

Finally, I would like to say that Stuart Lawler at NCBI made me very
welcome.  It was a long coach journey, but definitely worth meeting staff
and having hands-on with Canute.

Kind regards,

Jackie Brown
Email: Jackieannbrown62 at gmail.com
Check out my website: www.thebrownsplace.info
Follow me on Twitter: @thebrownsplace
Skype name: thejackmate

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