An interesting device, the Canute 360 from the British company Bristol Braille Technology, is currently making its way onto the market in last years. This device has the undeniable advantages of displaying up to nine 40-character lines at a time, and its price is not significantly higher than that of many single-line braille displays. The manufacturers state on their website: the Canute 360 is the world’s first multi-line affordable line display; it has 9 lines instead of one, 360 braille cells instead of 40, and costs $7 per braille cell, not $70. Indeed, the price of this device is surprisingly affordable; the device can be purchased for around $2500, though of course one must also account for customs duty and other fees when buying from abroad.
It is, for the time being, a Braille-only device with no voice output. The lines are 6-point, and according to the YouTube presentation, the cells can rearrange quite quickly, about one line per second, so it takes about 9 to 10 seconds to load the entire display area. The cell rearranging itself is significantly noisier compared to other lines, but definitely not as noisy as the mechanical typewriters we were used to until recently. The size of the device must increase as the lines get bigger, but this is not tragic and the Canute is still a very compact device at 37cm x 19cm x 4cm. The weight is a bit worse, with 9 lines it has put on 2.8 kg, so it could be compared to an older thicker notebook. The surface of the reading surface is plastic, it is supposed to feel like paper, although the dots themselves are slightly harder than dots on paper. The manufacturers have chosen a different method of displaying the braille cells, which has contributed significantly to the lower price of the device. Several navigation buttons help in navigating through the text, controlling menus, the library, and managing bookmarks. Two USB ports allow the connection of USB sticks with digital content, and a memory card slot performs the same function. The device is hardware-ready to serve as a braille line when connected to a computer, but this functionality is still in the software development stage. However, according to the manufacturers, a firmware update of the device should be sufficient to enable this functionality. In the bowels of the Canute 360 hides a Raspberry Pi microcomputer running on the Linux operating system. An ebook reader makes reading and manipulating books easier.
I consider the disadvantages of the device to be the slower refresh of braille cells than is the case with conventional braille displays, although I haven’t had opportunity to test the device. The harder dots may also be a disadvantage for people used to reading dot type exclusively on paper. Also, the device’s line spacing is a bit larger than we’re used to from the standards used in conventional printing, about 1.5 lines. Still, given the reasonable price of the device and the ability to display almost half of a normal braille page, this is a very interesting contribution to braille technology. The Canute 360 opens up the possibility of working with digital mathematical notation, musical notation, as well as basic forms of relief graphics. It provides a significantly greater graphical insight into the text being read, which in many cases is as important as the content of the text itself.
When you type Canute 360 into the YouTube search engine, you can find a presentation of the device, as well as a podcast episode – the AT Banter Podcast with detailed information directly from the manufacturer. Currently on the manufacturer’s YouTube channel, instructional videos “How to use the Canute 360” have also been added.
Review of the Canute 360 by Grace Amodeo.
As one of the Canute 360 manufacturer’s team notes, the market for devices displaying digital Braille is opening up, devices with lower and more affordable price points such as the Orbit Reader are coming on line, the market absolutely demands a multi-line device, and an expansion of the portfolio of these devices can be expected.