New full-page Braille reader under development


An interesting opportunity for blind and visually impaired people to move from the current expensive, slow and difficult to use single line refreshable Braille displays to an easy-to-use, cheap and more effective device is currently under development at the University of Michigan. A team of researchers is indeed developing a prototype for a new Kindle-style full-page Braille display that would allow users to access content on a full page at the same time instead of reading one line at a time.

This would not only make reading easier compared to the current single line Braille readers, but it would also provide the opportunity to access other types of information apart from text that are currently inaccessible to them such as graphs, pictures and spatially distributed information. This would mark a significant step forward for blind people in learning and accessing subjects like mathematics or science where even the text-to-speech or audio materials are not effective.

“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. That just means for a lot of people these things are not accessible or not available.” Sile O’Modhrain, Professor collaborating on the project (MIT Technology Review)

The new device would work through a pneumatic system instead of an electronic one, with a display made of tiny bubbles that could be filled with air or liquid to become Braille characters. The use of this system would not only allow the aforementioned advantages, but it would also make the device relatively cheap: the cost is indeed estimated to be around $1000 compared to the current $3000-4000 needed for a single line display.

It’s still a project under development with some problems to be addressed such as how to control the whole pneumatic system; nonetheless it is a very important development that might really mark a radical change from the current devices available and the limited opportunities these can offer.

For more information on how the device would work and the problems still to be addressed watch the full video here.

Additional sources: GAATES, Daily Mail, MIT Technology Review, University of Michigan