One of the most exciting developments in refreshable braille display technology is the creation of market-viable multi-line braille displays. While single-line braille displays have been in production for many decades, multi-line displays have only become widely available in the past half-decade or so. Currently, several multi-line displays are available or soon to be released.
In this piece, I want to highlight three such displays: the Orbit Slate, the Canute 360, and the Monarch.
Orbit Slate Series
Orbit Research, renowned for releasing one of the first sub-$1000 braille displays, the Orbit Reader 20, has introduced two multi-line displays in their Orbit Slate series. The Orbit Slates come in 340 and 520 models, with 3 lines of 40 braille cells and 5 lines of 20 cells, respectively. Both slates have a suite of apps available on the device and are compatible with the majority of mobile and desktop operating systems. On-board apps for reading and writing braille documents, a clock, calendar, and calculator are included. Both slates can be connected over Bluetooth or by USB for use with your preferred screen reader. While pricing details are scarce and not provided on-site, it appears the device was launched at an introductory price of $3,495 for the 520 and $3,995 for the 340. To purchase, you are asked to contact Orbit by phone or email.
Canute 360 by Bristol Braille Technology
The Canute 360, a multi-line display by Bristol Braille Technology in the UK, features 9 lines of braille with 40 cells in each. The base Canute model is standalone, and you can find a detailed review of the device in AccessWorld here. To expand the Canute's capabilities, Bristol Braille Technology has developed the upcoming Canute Console, a Canute 360 paired with a docking station containing a QWERTY keyboard, monitor, and Raspberry Pi 400 Linux computer. The Canute displays in braille exactly what is shown in print on the Linux terminal and can be used for tasks such as reviewing and manipulating data, programming, gathering spatial information, and playing games. A notable use of the technology is the ability to follow a soccer match replay in real-time on the display, indicating that the Canute can refresh certain parts of the display in real-time, much like Orbit's Graphiti tablet. Bristol Braille Technology is currently offering preorders for their second run of consoles, priced at ｣2,495, which translates to $3,173.90.
The Monarch by APH, HumanWare, and NFB
The American Printing House for the Blind (APH), in partnership with HumanWare and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), has developed an upcoming multi-line braille and tactile graphics display called the Monarch. The Monarch features 10 lines of 32 braille cells that can also be used to produce tactile graphics. The primary purpose of the device is to allow students to have the equivalent of a printed braille textbook in digital format. Additionally, the Monarch can produce braille and tactile graphics simultaneously, allowing for tasks such as adding braille labels to parts of diagrams. The Monarch utilizes cell technology produced by DOT Inc., also used in their own Dot Pad tactile graphics display. The device also includes a braille keyboard for document creation.
At present, it appears the Monarch is standalone, reading documents copied onto the device itself. The format allowing the Monarch to contain tactile graphics and braille in a single file is called EBRF, and is in development by APH in cooperation with experts from 17 different countries. A reliable source for the Monarch's price is elusive, but $15,000 has been mentioned in various locations.
All three of these displays are groundbreaking in their own way. The Orbit slates are the first multi-line displays that can be connected to multiple operating systems, similar to traditional refreshable displays. The Canute Console is the first device to provide a one-to-one digital to braille transcription of an entire operating system, and the Monarch is the first device to seamlessly provide braille and tactile graphics in the same rendered image. With these highlighted devices, we are making massive strides in the availability of complex braille information.