Those of us who mostly have (almost) full control of our senses and bodies sometimes take for granted that all the wonderful advancements in technology alienate a group of people who sadly don’t have that luxury. From the elderly to those with physical handicaps, these people are sometimes locked out of all the juicy content that we often sing about on our touchscreens. Good thing that technology is also coming to the rescue, with what could be a dynamic screen that will produce bumps and dots on the surface to let blind users read the screen’s contents with Braille.
The problem with touchscreen-centric devices is that they lack the haptic feedback that is so critical to blind users. Sure, we have voice control and screen readers, but their operations are limited and slow. There are also devices that translate screen’s contents, like an ebook’s words, into Braille as well, but those machines are prohibitively expensive and can only “translate” one line of text a time. That would be, in effect, like reading a book one line at a time at a snail’s pace.
Professor Sile O’Modhrian, associate professor Brent Gillespie, and doctoral candidate Alexander Russomanno, all from the University of Michigan, are working on a breakthrough technology that will not only be more affordable but also more portable as well. The way their invention works is that it makes use of pneumatics and microfluids. Tiny amounts of liquid or gas are used to raise bubbles on the surface of the screen. These pattern of bubbles of course represent Braille characters and words and the patterns change dynamically depending on the screen’s displayed contents.
Normally, this kind of pneumatic system would require thousands of valves that will bulk up a machine beyond reasonable proportions. But the researchers claim they have found a way to shrink all that into layers. You’ll end up with a device that is hopefully no thicker than a tablet.
The technology is far from done and the University of Michigan researchers think it will be a couple of years before that happens. By that time, they think there will be a market of users hungry for all the content that should be available to them as well. Who knows? Maybe that same technology could be reused to provide haptic feedback even for seeing users.
VIA: Popular Science