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Visually challenged students from all over the country will soon have the access to Braille Maps designed and developed using Digital Embossing Technology, enabling them the ease of use of these maps that are user friendly, better feeling, and durable in terms of quality.

Digital embossing technology is a technology that eliminates the need for printing plates, moulds, chemicals, and solvents, emitting no pollutants or waste and reduces overall energy usage. This innovative technology has been introduced, designed, and implemented for the first time in India by National Atlas & Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO) functioning as the attached office of the Department of Science & Technology.

The maps produced using this technology are not only useful for high-speed production of the maps but can also produce Braille Maps that can be used by more people for years together. "It has been experienced that the maps produced with earlier technology have lost their readability and feeling experience within a very short span of time. Feedback from experts and students of the Braille community has encouraged and motivated us to prepare the low-cost state-of-art product in terms of reduction of volume of the atlas, enhancement of the readability features, ease of carrying the maps and atlas etc.," NATMO said.

NATMO started the journey in the year 1997, however, it has become popularised with the publication of Braille Atlas for Visually Impaired (India), edition 2017 in English Braille Script which received a huge response from the visually impaired community, a release from the Department of Science & Technology under the Ministry of Science & Technology said on Monday.

In continuation, NATMO received unexpected and overwhelming demands for Braille Atlases from different corners and it has been recognized that NATMO is the pioneer organisation in this domain. This has encouraged NATMO to prepare Braille Atlases in Hindi and other regional languages. Also, this organisation has started preparation for Braille Atlases of different states of India in consultation with experts and organisations.

With encouragement and support from the Department of Science & Technology, NATMO has developed a Braille Unit with state-of-art cutting edge solutions such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and spot UV coating methods for Digital Embossing Solution. The complete process undergoes different stages with end-to-end solutions in digital platforms.

Braille Atlas of India were distributed in 323 schools of India as a proof of concept (PoC). The unique Braille Solution Unit will be launched soon with the expectation to fulfill the demands of the larger community at the pan-India level.

"Primarily thematic maps are prepared on digital platforms using GIS technology. The hard copy products are then laminated with soft sheets. The soft laminated maps are placed onto the embossing digital devices with perfect registration for spot UV coating. Soft copy maps are masked in the area of interest for embossing. AI technology is used for 3D embossing to get the final Braille Maps. Complete map sets are bound spirally for the easy use of the visually impaired students," the release said explaining the process.

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