If you've ever been to Japan you'll know how staggeringly – almost unbelievably – important karaoke is to the people there. For a sizeable chunk of the populace, it's a part of life, just like breathing and eating.

Apart, that is, from people who have difficulty reading the words on the monitor attached to one of the sing-along devices. If a visually impaired person can't see the lyrics, then they can't join in.

Real-time Braille

That's why Tokyo firm Nippon Telesoft decided to build a Braille karaoke machine that translates onscreen lyrics in real time into the raised bumps that form the fingertip alphabet.

Although it may seem a simple matter for karaoke-ists to just learn a new song, a typical Japanese system offers tens of thousands of tracks and a session might encompass fifty or more amateur renditions.

Learn on the fly

The new system, which will be sold to karaoke venues from the autumn, analyses the song lyrics from the text file that accompanies each video and translates them on the fly into Braille. In other words, it can cope with anything new thrown at it.

From then on, it's a simple matter of the person with visual problems putting their fingers on the connected plastic Braille pad and reading off what they feel as it changes shape to match the words.

Of course, there's no guarantee that the end results will be any more entertaining than those of anyone else, but you can see a video of the system in action on Nippon Telesoft's website.