A Braille tablet for blind readers


A pneumatic tablet promises not only a practical design but a more affordable full-page reading option for the vision-impaired.


Researchers at the University of Michigan have created a Braille tablet using pneumatics. Small bubbles are filled with fluid or air to inflate and deflate, creating words in Braille.

Currently, blind people fluent in Braille can read computer screens through refreshable mechanical displays that convert the words to raised dots – but only one line at a time.

A full-page display created using this technology would have to be large and bulky. The updated pneumatic design allows for a slim and portable tablet design, much like a Kindle.

Single line Braille devices are also expensive, costing between US$3,000 and US$55,000. By alternating between gas or liquid to raise the bubbles, researchers estimate the new design could cost as little at US$1,000.

And there is still room to boost the design's efficiency. The existing prototype feed the bubbles using tubes, but the finished product will use microfluidic channels, the researchers say.

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