A team of researchers led by Dr. Sile O’Modhrain at the University of Michigan have recently unveiled a Braille-enabled prototype tablet. If this initiative becomes a success, reading text and working with graphs will take a whole new turn for people who are suffering from sight problems. The tablet features fully refreshable pages which contain raised bumps which can be read by touch.
At this time, electronic devices that are Braille-enabled are extremely expensive. According to Dr. O Modhrain, a single line of Braille can cost around $3000 to $5000 which means a full display can cost almost $55,000 or more. Additionally, a single line does not allow much. It is hard to read when you have just a single line available at a time and you cannot do graphs or spreadsheets on these devices. In fact, the current devices are incapable of doing anything which requires more than one line to be displayed.
The team is set to reduce these costs so that Braille tablets are more affordable. They will be using either air or fluids to create bumps on tablet. The prototype will be able to display entire pages of data which can be refreshed. This makes this new Braille-enabled tablet more promising than any of those that are already available in the market.
A pneumatic system allows air or liquid to push up small plastic pins from an 8 x 7 grid which form Braille letters. The team’s biggest challenge is to ensure that the pneumatic system can be controlled without making the device extremely large or losing its portability feature.
Braille is a vital tool for the blind and if the team of Michigan researchers succeed in their endeavor, the blind will have a whole new world to discover through these tablets.