Note: This article first appeared in the BCAB Newsletter of August 2017.)
My sincere thanks to VisionAid Technologies Ltd for allowing me the opportunity to review Dot Watch.
The gizmo market is now flooded with various wearables that come in all shapes, colours and sizes. But a new concept in Smart technology is Dot Watch, manufactured in South Korea by Dot Incorporation. When paired to your phone, and using four discreet Braille cells, the Dot allows you to read notifications, Bluetooth and battery status and, of course, the time!
Dot Watch has a circular face on which four Braille cells can display either the time, date, Bluetooth status, battery level, notifications, and remaining time if the stopwatch or timer is set. Beneath the Braille cells are two sensors for moving the Braille cells back and forward through each item displayed. On the right side of the watch are two buttons, one either side of the crown. The button closest to your body activates the Home button with a short press, and powers Dot on and off when long pressed. The button furthest from you is the selector button. The crown cycles clockwise and anti-clockwise through the menus on the watch. Vibration feedback is provided at all times. Underneath the watch is a magnetic area onto which clips the charging base.
The Dot Watch strap has a magnetic clamp on one end so that you wrap the strap round your wrist and allow the magnetic clasp to snap shut to keep the watch securely fastened. There are two sizes of watch strap which you would need to specify when ordering to suit the size of your wrist.
Dot Watch app
In order to use Dot Watch, you need to download the Dot Watch app from the Apple App or Google Play Store. When you open the app for the first time, you are invited to set up your Dot Watch by creating an account and pairing it with your iPhone or Android device. This is straightforward and self-explanatory as the app has been specifically written to work with VoiceOver and Talkback. You can use the app to sign in and out of your account, and alter settings associated with the Dot Watch.
Using Dot Watch
When you pair Dot Watch with your Smartphone, ensure that Bluetooth and notifications are enabled on your phone. Move the crown of Dot Watch to Bluetooth and press the Activate button. When it is paired, Dot Watch has the letters “conn” displayed in Braille. When Bluetooth is not paired, or is not in close proximity to your phone, it has the letters “disc” displayed.
If you have notifications turned on, you can receive alerts such as news flashes, text messages, incoming calls, reminders, and Social Media notifications. Dot Watch vibrates to alert you of a notification. Use the crown to scroll to “Noti” and tap the button furthest from you on the watch to access the alert. Use the left or right sensors beneath the four Braille cells to read the notification you have received. You can manage your notifications in the Dot Watch app. Using Dot Watch is a very quiet, private experience, particularly during meetings. It is also possible to set Dot Watch so that it automatically scrolls through your notifications at a speed comfortable for your reading.
Battery life on Dot Watch is exceptional, it does not require a charge every night like some modern wearables do. When the watch is fully charged, you will feel all dots present across the four Braille cells. As the charge decreases, so the Braille dots change formation to indicate the amount of charge remaining.
Dot Watch comes with a short Quick Start booklet in Braille, but instructions can also be found within the Dot Watch app. The device is nicely packaged in a rectangular box with the Braille words: ‘Inventing tactile communication’ written on the outside of it.
Conclusion and pricing
The first iteration of Dot Watch came with a horrible strap that was bulky and far too long for most wrists. But the latest version has a very nice, comfortable strap that more sensibly snaps shut with a magnetic clasp. Braille dots are more stable on this version as well. The watch periodically disconnects from Bluetooth, making it slightly hit or miss, but I think this is more to do with keeping your phone and Dot Watch in close proximity to one another. Dot Watch is extremely lightweight, but it might feel rather bulky on a slim wrist like I have. I also find notifications a bit hit and miss, but it is an incredibly private experience if this is something that appeals to you.
Dot Watch is being distributed in the UK by VisionAid Technologies. (Updated October 2019: The website currently quotes £399.00.) For further information about Dot Watch, its pricing, or to receive a demonstration, contact them on 01775 711977, or visit www.visionaid.co.uk.