Every Thursday, ILQ features a different Qatari startup in our ‘Startup of the Week’ segment. Qatar has some of the most creative, unique, and impactful startups in the region, and we cover them all across a variety of industries in Doha—from fashion and beauty, to food and dining, health, education, technology, and more!
This week, we're sliding for Bonocle—one of the very first electronic hardware product to be created in Qatar which utilizes Braille (a tactile reading system for the visually-impaired) as a medium for blind users to read digital content from our everyday smart electronic devices.
Basically, Bonocle is a patent pending handheld electronic device that uses any surface and transforms it into a Braille paper. Similar to using a mouse, the user would slide Bonocle across a surface and the text would be sent to the Braille cell chronologically, giving them a natural reading experience.
One of the tech start-up's founders Ramy Abdulzaher said that the innovation behind Bonocle is the way it communicates with smart electronic devices. "It does so in a simple fashion allowing it to utilise the power of electronic devices while remaining cheap, portable and elegant."
According to Ramy's team, their device benefits the people of Qatar by:
"We believe that Bonocle will give more freedom and independence to the blind community here in Qatar. It will also allow them to co-exist in our classrooms and offices, pushing the nation towards being a society that is inclusive of everyone regardless of their disabilities."
"It will benefit the people of Qatar by showing them that hardware start-ups are possible in Qatar and will promote the availability of hardware design facilities here in Qatar."
Sharing a little story about their humble beginnings, co-founder Mahmoud El Touny said that the idea sparked while they were just students in a university in late 2015. "My colleague and fellow founder Abdelrazek had broke his right hand in a car accident. As a result, the university referred him to the center for special needs. As a bunch of engineers and computer science students, we quickly saw a problem, a glitch in the matrix if you will, and our first instinct was, how do we solve it!" he enthusiastically blurted out.
The bunch of young inventors also shared that they couldn't believe that in our current age of advanced technology, the equipment that blind people are using to be able to read aren't that innovative yet as Braille usually gives them numerous technical issues, such as not being able to support the format of the file, or not being able to support the Arabic language.
"Since then, we have worked on multiple versions of Bonocle. Improving each time after a long validation process," Mahmoud explained.
Among several of Bonocle's unique features are the rare mix of hardware and software solution, and the untapped area of huge potential that it is targeting. The founders also pointed out Braille's relatively-high cost, which millions of blind people around the world cannot afford.
"With Bonocle, we're putting an end to the usual technical issues and language barriers that our blind friends are forced to deal with every single day. Also, the device is something we believe is of value to the world. It will serve the blind community here in Qatar and make them proud to be using a device made by their own country while also serving millions of blind individuals worldwide."
When asked about the response that they're getting so far, co-founder Kariem Fahmi shared that Doha's disabled community has been extremely supportive. "They've given us extremely valuable feedback upon which the idea has evolved and iterated."
Mahmoud, on the other hand, added that the idea behind Bonocle was validated both locally and in the US and the feedback that the team has received was always heartwarming. "Some of them even asked to buy our prototype. Their support has fueled us and seeing how amazing and motivated they are has always pushed us forward."
With startups now emerging with amazing ideas that have potential for global success, the boys of Bonocle believe that if given the chance and the facilities, they would be able to contribute to Qatar's economic growth and reduce its dependency on oil & gas.
Bonocle has been incubated by the Qatar Science Technology Park (QSTP) since 2016.
To know more about Bonocle, check out their, website and social media links below!
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