You may find it difficult to access reading materials if you are blind. Voice dictation can be used to navigate a phone or tablet but that really doesn’t help you to do your entire task. Text to Speech software has become very popular, but the exact requirement for the job is Braille. However, Text to Speech software is unable to provide visual information as Braille. What if you need to read any graphics or charts? Though there have been Braille keyboards available for some time, they are expensive, heavy and definitely not portable.
The University of Michigan has a solution for you. The researchers of the university are developing an affordable Braille tablet that uses microfluidic bubbles for its display. It is hoped that the tablet could make it easier for the blind to have access to math and science. The Braille displays available earlier used plastic pins pushed up and down from a motor. However, this new device uses air or liquid to fill bubbles that pop up and construct the patterns of raised dots that Braille is built up of. As this method frees up the space, the displays become tablet size, portable, and able to display more complex information than the traditional one.
“Blind people currently only have access to a single line of text on these digital devices,” said Alexander Russomanno. Currently he is working on this project. “You can’t do much with a single line. It’s hard to read for one, but also you can’t do things like graphs or spreadsheets or any kind of spatially distributed information.”
The manufacturing doesn’t rely on the assembly of an excess of small parts, rather it counts on layering that could set the possible retail price at less than £700.
Sile O’Modhrain, a performing arts professor and visually impaired, currently working on the tablet said, “One of the main consequences for blind people not being able to access Braille is that they’re limited in terms of the kind of scientific and mathematical things they can do. Even being able to do something fun like see a graphic that represents the performance statistics of their football team.”
Blind people can use this tablet for reading, communication and even for some basic graphical use. Albeit, it wouldn’t be a complete substitute for touch screen or visual input but it would be able to provide some spatial information, which sighted people take for granted.