What is the Canute Console?
The Canute Console is everything the Canute 360 Braille e-reader is, but its also a Linux workstation with multiline Braille display. It is composed of a Canute 360 Braille display docked in a workstation that adds a pull-out Qwerty keyboard, a fold-up 13″ high contrast monitor, and runs off a Raspberry Pi 400.
Why the monitor? For co-working and co-playing between Braille readers and their sighted or low-vision colleagues. The monitor and the Braille display show exactly the same output from the terminal. The Braille display can be switched between Literary Braille for a familiar environment and Computer Braille, for letter for letter identical layout in Braille as a sighted person will see on the monitor. Thus the Console can be used by Braille readers to develop spacial — even graphical — applications for sighted audiences.
Why Linux? This Canute Console can be switched to Smart Mode to operate from the Linux command line, a powerful and universal working environment brilliantly suited to Braille. The Console can be used to log into and control servers or desktop computer running Linux, Windows, MacOS or embedded IoT devices. It can be used for cross developing apps for any operating system. SSH into your home Windows PC in refreshable Braille! Don’t know what SSH means but curious to find out? Try the Braillists Foundation’s Masterclasses on Linux.
Why Raspberry Pi? The Pi has fast become the world’s most commonly used and supported computer for educational, embedded and IoT development. Its a great choice for students and developers and — as the Console is also designed to be used as a terminal for controlling remote servers — the user is not restricted to ARM7 for more intensive applications.
- Canute 360 Braille display with 360 cells over nine lines, 40 cells per line
- Desktop workstation (not battery operated): 15″ x 8″ x 2″, 8lb.
- 13″ high contrast monitor
- Stereo speakers
- Runs on Raspian (Debian based), including the BRLTTY screen reader and many custom tools developed by BBT to create and visualise data
- Raspberry Pi 400 computer, features a quad-core 1.5GHz 64-bit ARM7 processor, 4GB of RAM, WiFi and Bluetooth networking, as well as a 40-pin GPIO header and 3x USB-A ports
- Slide-out keyboard
- Custom manufactured case
- Ergonomically designed for Braille readers
Trials and launch of the Canute Console
We launched and delivered on the first pre-order of the Console in 2023. Since November 2022 have also been engaging in trials and touring the machine around the UK, USA, Germany and Ireland to give Braille readers a chance to use it and tell us what they want the Console to be able to do.
Our ethos has always been to let the community lead us and their feedback is invaluable. We are always looking for partner organisations interested in running trials of the Console in their own field, be in engineering, IT, mathematics or something really left field.
Applications for the Canute Console
Here are a number of applications we at BBT, with our community, have either tested, modified or developed to use on the Canute Console.
Some of these are ready and come with the Canute Console on purchase, some are experimental and we can load them onto a customers machine on request.
All of these make maximum use of all 360 cells; ever cell of each 40 character line as been eked out to create new and exciting applications in Braille. Fundamentally though, the Console is about using nine-line refreshable Braille to crack open the world of spacial app development to blind people. The following are some example uses, but the Console will be what we make of it!
- Micro, text editor for programming and word processing. Also available, all the usual Linux text editors, vi, nano, emacs.
- Cities Through Braille, top down city exploration map game, where the player can explore real cities by down loading their data off the internet.
- Association Football, where you choose from any country or club league or cup game of (soccer) football and watch it replay across a tactile football pitch in real time, with highlights, rewind, fast forward, and Braille commentary for every single play. Feel every movement of the ball, every yard moved, every shot blocked.
- Snake. That’s right, the old Nokia game, re-imagined as a tactile experience, including a pre- and early-Braille learning levels system.
- Dynamic Braille Sheets, taking spreadsheets (Excel compatible) and rendering them to the Braille display, including multiple columns and rows, zooming in and out.
- Flow, a visualiser for creating and presenting flow diagrams. It works just as well for the Braille user creating them as for their sighted colleagues being shown the graphical version (with exactly the same layout, of course!)
- Dungeon Explorer, very much does what it says on the tin. Not only have we built our own, but you, the user, can modify almost any ascii-based rogue-like, or indeed any other ascii-based game, to run on their Console.
- Maths Pretty Print, for viewing LaTex maths equations as spacial multiline formula, as they were meant to be seen.
- SVG out, a simple test showing how easy it is to use the Console to turn supposedly visual media, such as Scalable Vector Graphics, into a tactile version of the same.
- Free Draw, for drawing diagrams free-hand in Braille ascii. We use it for drawing floor plans, which can be done in a couple of minutes.
- Word Search Generator, another one that does what it says on the tin.
- Present, a demonstration of how easy it is with a multiline display to present the same spacial info to both a blind and sighted audience on the Console using just common Linux tools. In this case, Pandoc and LibreOffice to make presentations that show the same data and layout on a Powerpoint compatible slide show as on the Braille display.
- All those command line applications that rely on more than one line to really make sense, or output logs over more than one line? Yeah, they work much, much better when you can see them over a live, updating Braille page, trust us!
Whatever we do we make the sources viewable to the Console user (in refreshable Braille, of course), to help people learn from them, or adjust them to hack them for their own purposes.
Until now a blind developer could use text-to-speech or view single lines of Braille. The Console adds the second dimension: diagrams, tables, maps, functions. With it blind developers can create spacial games for sighted people.
We’re looking for games studios to partner with us in sponsoring blind developers with Canute Consoles to complete a game-jam and publish their games on Itch. We’d love to meet up with games studios interested in partnering with us. If that’s you, please contact us.