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Photo: Lego

Aiming to make its signature bricks more accessible, Lego is testing the use of AI to translate its building instructions into spoken commands and braille so that blind users can get in on the fun.

The intrigue: The idea came from Matthew Shifrin, an expert Lego builder who was born blind. Matthew had a friend, Lilya, who would translate all of the Lego instructions from graphical steps into braille text.

What they're saying: Shifrin told Axios working with Legos helps blind kids in multiple ways. Building Lego sets not only provides a sense of mastery and accomplishment, but also helps people better understand the world around them.

"As a blind person, cultural landmarks are an abstract concept. I know that the Statue of Liberty is an iconic symbol of America, but have no idea how it's shaped. It's a woman holding a torch and a scroll, that's all I know. If I climbed it, to try and understand its shaping better, I'd get arrested. But if I build the Statue out of Lego, then I become intimately familiar with its shaping and am better able to understand the world around me."
— Matthew Shifrin

For Shifrin, it's also a tribute to his friend Lilya, who died two years ago. "I promised myself that I would not let this project rest, until Lego took action," he said. "I'm so glad that they've taken it upon themselves to make their sets accessible to blind children."

To ensure the directions were accurate, Lego tested them with Shifrin and children from the U.K. and Denmark. Lego is starting out with four sets, with an eye toward expanding the program next year. The effort builds on Lego's introduction earlier this year of braille bricks.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

23 mins ago - Health

FDA panel backs Merck's antiviral COVID pill

The Merck Cherokee Plant in Riverside, Pennsylvania. Photo: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Tuesday voted 13-10 to endorse an antiviral pill developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to treat adults at high risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19, despite concerns over its effectiveness and safety.

Why it matters: Oral antiviral drugs designed to prevent or treat COVID-19 could be key pandemic-fighting tools, if proven effective, especially as new variants emerge. If authorized, the Merck drug, known as molnupiravir, would be the first treatment of its kind to be made available in the United States.

Shooting at Michigan high school leaves 3 dead, 6 wounded

Screengrab: CBSN

Three people dead and six others are wounded after a shooting at a high school in Michigan according to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

Driving the news: The alleged shooter was a 15-year-old sophomore at Oxford High School and has been arrested, per police.

Fed signals it could yank economic support quicker as inflation sticks around

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell testifies during a hearing before Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee today. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve will consider pulling back economic support sooner "as the threat of persistently high inflation has grown," chair Jerome Powell said during a congressional hearing on Tuesday.

Why it matters: This is the biggest signal yet the Fed is backing away from its stance that soaring prices would be fleeting — a change that could shift its policies that underpin the economy.

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