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Braille Touchscreen Could Bring iPhones to the Blind

Louis Braille, the man that invented the system of raised bumps that allow the blind to read, will celebrate his 200th birthday this year. His gift to the world, Braille, allows the sight-deficient to live relatively normal lives, reading elevator signs and ordering from the menu at certain restaurants. However, in the increasingly touchscreen-reliant, wireless world, the blind are at a loss. MP3 players, most cell phones, and computers are virtually useless (Braille-enabled computers are staggeringly expensive, and laptops can only read one line of text at a time).

While Yosi Bar-Cohen was staying the night in a hotel hosting a conference for the blind, the NASA researcher had an idea. Electroactive polymers (or EAPs), the same technology used in prosthetic limbs, could be fitted with sensors that would contract or move when exposed to voltage. If packed tightly enough, the EAP could serve as a translator for wireless devices. Dots would rise and fall depending on signals, turning the iPhone into a much more tactile experience.

The technology would not just benefit the blind, says Bar-Cohen. He told Popular Science that the actuators could be used to benefit billions of people, by placing the EAP on anything where sensory perception is needed. Brian MacDonald, President of National Braille Press, described uses for the sighted, like a steering wheel that could sense if a driver was sleepy, triggering an alarm in the event. As of now, most of this technology is just hypothetical, but Bar-Cohen is planning an international conference next spring to share his findings -- and hopefully start rethinking possibilities for the blind. [From: Popular Science]

Tags: accessibility, blind, braille, research, top, touchscreen

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