Simplifying the lives of visually impaired people through innovation
Company provides innovative electronic notetaker for the visually impaired
December 22, 2011— Drummondville, Québec
Technologies HumanWare inc.
The BrailleNote Apex, an innovative notetaker launched in 2009 by HumanWare and supported by the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), helps visually impaired people become fully involved in their community. Being the thinnest and lightest of its kind on the market, this product considerably increases the independence of blind professionals and students.
Powerful, portable, handy and effective, the BrailleNote Apex is equipped with smart ergonomics. A full-size Braille keyboard makes it possible to take notes quickly and the thumb keys make reading easier. These features give visually impaired people the versatility they require for work and everyday life. The notetaker’s design, the most compact in the industry, would not have been possible without NRC-IRAP’s advisory services, along with financial assistance.
Gilles Pepin, HumanWare’s President and Yves Boisjoli, Vice-President of Strategic Development
Advice that paid off
Since contacting NRC-IRAP nearly 10 years ago, Industrial Technology Advisors Mr. Patrice Audet-Lapointe, Mr. Yves Plourde and Mr. Fabrice Lucherini have provided HumanWare with advisory services that enabled them to accelerate the design of their product line.
In 2008, when Mr. Audet-Lapointe received HumanWare’s notetaker project submission, he immediately saw the potential of this innovative technology.
Patrice validated the commercial potential of our project and analyzed our financial situation, along with our capital requirements,” stated Mr. Pierre Hamel, Vice-President of Research and Development. “The financial support from NRC-IRAP was a key element in the notetaker’s success. Without that assistance, we would have conducted a less ambitious development project that would have been spread out over many more years. Commercializing the product would also have been delayed by several months, which would have caused us to miss the business opportunity that arose in 2010 in the visual impairment market.
The financial support from NRC-IRAP was a key element in the notetaker’s success. Without that assistance, we would have conducted a less ambitious development project that would have been spread out over many more years. Commercialization of the product would also have been delayed by several months, which would have caused us to miss the business opportunity that arose in 2010 in the visual impairment market.
Vice-President, R&D, HumanWare
Mr. Plourde’s avionic expertise helped HumanWare better understand the technical challenges inherent in designing the notetaker. He also provided the company with recommendations for promoting better technological risk management. Realizing that development centres were providing expertise that was complementary to HumanWare, Mr. Plourde put them in contact with experts at universities, research centres and college centres for technology transfer, such as the Centre d'innovation en microélectronique du Québec.
Lastly, the financial contribution from NRC-IRAP in 2009 following Mr. Lucherini’s recommendations enabled HumanWare to maintain the notetaker’s pace of development at a critical point in the project.
A resounding commercial success, an increase in productivity and the creation of new jobs
NRC-IRAP assistance has allowed HumanWare:
- To achieve a return on investments and increase the BrailleNote Apex sales by 110% by the end of 2010, after one year of commercialization;
- To position the notetaker as the benchmark in the United States education market;
- To transfer the R&D activities and the development of the BrailleNote Apex to Canada, thereby creating six new jobs in 2008.
A student uses the BrailleNote Apex model in class
HumanWare continues to foster active involvement by visually impaired people; and its inventions have earned it a number of awards. In view of the success of the BrailleNote Apex, the company plans to continue to market other innovative technologies.
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