Watch For The Blind Lets You Feel Time Passing

A new watch allows the blind to feel time on their wrists. Designer Hyungsoo Kim tells NPR's Wade Goodwyn his watch allows users to tell time accurately without revealing their disabilities.

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WADE GOODWYN, HOST:

If you've ever sat through a never-ending meeting or a bad movie, you've probably had to resist the urge to look down at your watch. What time is it? So imagine if you could just reach down and feel the time on your wrist. Well, when Hyungsoo Kim was in business school, he helped design a device that would let you do just that. It's not a watch, it's a timepiece 'cause you don't have to watch it to know the time.

This timepiece, called the Bradley, was designed for the blind. But interestingly enough, it's being bought mostly by sighted people who will now be able to check the time on the down low. Hyungsoo joins me in our D.C. studios. Thanks for coming in.

HYUNGSOO KIM: Thank you very much.

GOODWYN: Who is Bradley, and why did he need a new watch?

KIM: Yes, we named it after former naval officer Bradley Snyder who lost his vision in 2011 while he was serving in Afghanistan as a bomb diffuser. But one year after the accident, he inspired us by competing in Paralympics in London. And he won two gold medals and one silver medal. So the Bradley Timepiece is a wristwatch that you can tell time by either looking at it or by touching it. So my team started designing it after having realized that most of the mainstream watches and clocks require vision.

GOODWYN: Can you hold it up and show me how it works and describe it?

KIM: Yes. So the time is indicated by the two ball bearings. So one ball bearing, it rotates on the surface and the other ball bearing, it rotates on the side, so...

GOODWYN: Ah, well, it's a beautiful watch. And it has, I guess, chrome markings.

KIM: The face has raised hour markers so that people can feel the reference hours.

GOODWYN: Now, weren't there already watches for the blind, some kind of Braille? I mean, I really don't have any idea.

KIM: Yeah, so there are two types of watches available for the blind. So one is talking watch. I brought it here. Basically, you press a button.

(SOUNDBITE OF TALKING WATCH)

COMPUTERIZED SPEAKER: It's 2:34pm.

KIM: It speaks out time. But soon, I realized that people who use this didn't like pressing the button. First, everyone knows that you're checking time. Second, it draws attention to their disabilities. And the other alternative solution they have is analog watch. You open the glass cover to touch the minute and the hour hand. As you can imagine, it's very fragile, and when you touch them, you can very easily change position of the hands.

GOODWYN: Are you surprised that so many sighted people are buying the watch?

KIM: While we were developing the concept, we wanted it to be for everyone. So we are very glad that people who are sighted also really liking it.

GOODWYN: Hyungsoo Kim is the founder of Eone Timepieces, the maker of the new Bradley watch. Congratulations.

KIM: Thank you.

GOODWYN: This is NPR News.

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