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Tactile tablet

Tactile ‘tablet’ delivers graphical content for the blind

Work & Lifestyle

The European Union-funded product is a tactile ‘tablet’ for the visually impaired that has the potential to enable faster interaction with an ever more visual world.

As online content gets ‘better’ designed for the fully sighted it can get harder for those with visual impairments. Text-only sites would be easiest, but companies and services tend to make their content online ever more graphically complex. This puts blind people at a disadvantage and helped prompt the funding of a new project to help them.

The 2 million euro project has developed BlindPAD (Personal Assistive Devices for Blind and visually impaired people) is being coordinated by Luca Brayda of the Italian Institute of Technology in Genova. He explains that “our brain builds mental maps of basically everything [all information]. However this is difficult for visually impaired people, who need to do that in order to be independent in everyday life.”

The prototype developed by EU project partner École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) uses electromagnetic technology to move buttons up and down to create patterns that can be ‘read’ with the fingers. The idea is to translate visual concepts into tactile representations keeping energy consumption to a minimum. BlindPAD is a FP7 EU STREP collaborative project, which aims to help visually impaired people learn to map out the visual world faster and to do it with a device which is portable and cheap enough to be used by the whole community.

Tech’s capacity to improve the lives of those with disabilities is inspiring. We’ve seen listings for disabled access and smart cutlery that stabilises itself for helping diners with tremors or limited mobility, and now BlindPAD has the potential to make a whole area of information more accessible. How can emerging technologies be integrated into urban operations and services to help the visually impaired easily navigate cities around the world?




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