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In Pursuit of an Affordable Tablet For the Blind


A prototype of the tablet, which uses air or fluid to raise the dots that create braille letters.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed an inexpensive, full-page braille tablet.

Credit: Kelly O'Sullivan, University of Michigan College of Engineering

University of Michigan (U-M) researchers have developed an inexpensive, full-page braille tablet that could make subjects such as science and math more easily accessible to the blind and visually impaired.

The device uses liquid or air to fill tiny bubbles, which then pop up and create the blocks of raised dots that form braille. Each bubble has what amounts to a logic gate that opens or remains closed to control the flow of liquid after each command, says U-M professor Sile O'Modhrain.

The tablet is based on manufacturing techniques used in the silicon industry, in which chips are laid down in layers instead of having many small parts to assemble.

"My observation is that, currently, even many of us who read braille well find reading it with single-line braille displays slower and more tiring than using text-to-speech or audio materials," says the National Federation for the Blind's Chris Danielsen. "I think this would dramatically change with a larger display, especially one at a reasonable price point."

Although braille use has declined with the advent of new technologies, text-to-speech software is unable to convey the same visual information as braille. "Anything where you want to be able to see stuff written down, like coding or music or even just mathematics, you really have to work in braille," O'Modhrain says.

From Technology Review
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Abstracts Copyright © 2016 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


 

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