Project Details


Open-source IoT buttons help partially sighted children

By Nominet

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Project Twitter: @Nominet

  • Physical Computing

Lennie Anderton was just 10 months old when he lost his sight. A tumour damaged his optic nerve, making it difficult for him to learn to walk. 

Now five years old, Lennie is one of 35,000 blind and partially sighted children and young people in the UK. Tom Pey, CEO, Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) says that, “creating suitable toys that help vision impaired children play and interact…is key for their development.”

Pips, created by senior Nominet researcher David Simpson, provides an Internet of Things (IoT) solution that can help partially-sighted children navigate their environment through a playful and interactive way. 

Pips are a series of palm-sized buttons that can be attached to walls and furniture.  When a child presses the first button in a series, it lights up and beeps, while activating the next button for the child to press. Several buttons can be placed on a staircase for example, so a child can learn to go up and down stairs by finding each button and pressing it. 

Pips is built around a Light Blue Bean microcontroller, which uses Bluetooth to send and receive messages, and a ‘gateway’, such as a laptop or Raspberry Pi, to run the software. It is fully open source, which means that anyone can download instructions on how to build their own buttons and adapt them to their needs. 

While Lennie used to be nervous walking up and down stairs, placing Pips along the wall of the staircase has made walking into a game, which has made Lennie more confident. “Very quickly, he forgot to be afraid,” said his father, Ed Anderton.

Nominet has been testing Pips with RLSB and speaking to a range of professionals to see how it can be developed further to help people with dementia. Find out more at

Image courtesy of ThomasLife

Last updated: 13th of September, 2016

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