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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Blind People Might Soon “See” Graphs, Diagrams and Other Visual Formats

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This development makes Braille keyboards low-tech!

Researchers from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Johns Hopkins, The City College of New York's Grove School of Engineering, Baruch College, CCNY, Northwestern University and the University of Maryland, College Park are making a marvelous invention called "A Dynamic Tactile Interface for Visually Impaired and Blind People."

The DTI tool will likely have three layers:

1. A bottom layer touch screen connected to a computer for audio feedback to communicate the position touched on the screen.

2. The middle layer will have embedded isolated electrodes to address segments of the polymer top layer.

3. The top layer will consist of an electro-active polymer film covered with a thin gold film. Segments of the top layer will be able to extend out from the surface as voltage is applied from the corresponding electrode in the middle layer.

The tactile interface team is utilizing its collective skills to move electrical charges through manmade materials. In brief, the device is being designed to rise slightly and possibly to wiggle in response to electronic signals, allowing the user's fingertips to sense a pattern. If all goes according to plan, sound feedback will steer a user’s fingers along the lines of a graph or a diagram.

As their collective expertise improves, the team plans to enable vision-impaired people to see pictures, too. They’re already bringing people with little or no physical vision to the digital age. It’s all good news for blind individuals and people whose sight has been reduced by accidents, brain tumors, cataracts, congenital deformity, and more.

Related links:
James West

Johns Hopkins Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

The City College of New York

Here's another empowering device for people with little to zero optical vision. And it's already on the market!

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