Researchers at the University of Michigan are developing a revolutionary over-hyped screen tech that would one day be a Kindle-style Braille tablet that will potentially replace the extremely expensive limited functional Braille displays that are currently being used.
Text-to-speech software no doubt has been a huge benefit for blind people in recent years. But it can’t communicate visual data, through this Braille tablet the blind people will be able to visualize images with the help of textures.
The Performing arts Professor, Sile O’Modhrain, who her self is visually impaired ponders, “Imagine having a Kindle that isn’t a visual Kindle but instead has a tactile surface that can be read by a person who’s blind using Braille,”
The engineers are trying to develop a micro fluid display, which means that this will be a display that you touch rather than see. Existing Braille tablets are very bulky and are not portable at all, they use plastic pins pushed up and down from a motor which creates a pattern, the new pneumatic technology harnesses a liquid or air that display as tiny bubbles and pop up as Braille characters.
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This method is inspired from silicon industry, “Where chips are laid down in layers instead of having many small parts to assemble,” according to an MIT report.
This is a clever thought but you shouldn’t hope to see it in near future as it may at least take 5 to 7 years to develop devices using pneumatically powered display.
The current refreshable Braille displays can only display one line of a text at a time and are still very expensive. These displays cost around $3000 to $5000, so a full page display should cost around in the region of $55,000 but the new technology will cost the same as the current tablet while displaying textured images and full page texts. This all will be possible because the University of Michigan’s display does not rely on electronics or wiring and the researchers are working significantly to find much cheaper alternatives to its digital counterparts.
This technology will open up a whole new host of possibilities for blind people. They will be able to learn maths and science and will also be able to interact with graphs and spreadsheets, making this tablet a whole lot more than just a simple reading device.
A key point that must be noted here is that this will be a limited market as there are approximately 2 million visually impaired people in the United States but only a few of them can read Braille. According to a report from the National Federation of the Blind in 2009 that only 10 percent of the 1.3 million legally visually impaired people in the United States can read Braille and only 10 percent of the kids are learning it.
This project is gonna help the blind people acquire knowledge and will motivate them towards learning their language which will certainly bring back the 200 year old writing system and revolutionize it for the future.