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Refreshable Braille Display

Posted Apr 06 2010 12:00am

Anyone that has been reading my blog for a while knows how I feel about devices such as the Kindle reader and the lack of accessible features. The Kindle is making progress but it's not there yet. So, I was really interested to learn more about the accessibility features of Apple's new iPad.

So far, I haven't found much information - perhaps because the device is so new. But I did find one article that discussed future possiblities for the iPad and other such devices. From the Smart Planet website
Refreshable Braille display could change how the blind read

Scientists at North Carolina State University have developed a refreshable Braille display system that would allow the blind to read digital content on the Web.

The Braille system, of course, allows the blind to read by using a series of raised dots to represent letters and numbers.

The problem with existing electronic Braille displays is that the expensive devices generally only show one line of text per time.

But a research team led by Neil Di Spigna and Peichun Yang wanted to create a full-page display that effectively “maps pixels in an image,” allowing the full-page Braille display to represent the images as raised dots.

The researchers call the concept a “hydraulic and latching mechanism,” which is made of an inexpensive, resilient electroactive polymer that allows the dots to be raised to the correct height for reading.

Once the dots are raised, the latching mechanism supports the weight being applied by a person’s fingers as they read the dots.

The material’s quick response rate allows a reader to quickly scroll through a document.

The researchers said they are working on a fully functioning prototype, with next year as a target.

If successful, the blind will be able to take better advantage of the myriad gadgets — laptops, smartphones, GPS navigation devices, e-book readers, even the Apple iPad — that access the Web.
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