A prototype hydraulic and latching mechanism could bring to blind computer users something they've never had before: a full-page. Right now, refreshable Braille displays are slow and unwieldy, allowing a user access to the equivalent of one line of text at a time. For this reason, the vast majority of Internet content and computer applications are unavailable to the blind. What's worse, these displays are often horribly expensive.
From North Carolina State University, where the research is taking place:
The mechanism would be made of an electroactive polymer that is very resilient and inexpensive, when compared to current Braille display technologies. "This material will allow us to raise dots to the correct height, so they can be read," says Dr. Peichun Yang, a postdoctoral research associate at NC State and co-author of the paper. "Once the dots are raised, a latching mechanism would support the weight being applied by a person's fingers as the dots are read. The material also responds quickly, allowing a reader to scroll through a document or Web site quickly."
Try to imagine how different your life would be if you didn't have access to the Internet — or could only crawl through select segments of it one line at a time. More than just blogs and news sites, it's probably the first place anyone goes if they need to find help, medical advice, job opportunities and more. Dr. Yang, blind himself, hopes this technology will open up new horizons: "Reading Braille is essential to allowing blind people to find employment," he said in the release. "We're optimistic that this technology will give the blind additional opportunities in this area."