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Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Blind Now Can See Electronic Images

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology have been developing "and licensing" technologies that can help bring an affordable graphic reading system for the blind. The systems bring electronic images to life in the same way that Braille makes words readable.

The display uses close to 3,561 small pins that are known as actuator points – that can be raised in any pattern displayed on screen, then locked into place for reading. The points can then be withdrawn and reset in a new pattern, allowing the blind or visually disabled to "see" a variety of images. Each image is sent electronically to the device, that uses software to determine how to create a tactile display that matches the image.


Anonymous said...

I saw a show about tech like this on some science channel on satelite when I was out of town. The images however were not felt by the hand, but by the tongue. They had basically made a small array of points that could be electrically charged to recreate the shape of the images. Basically, people who had completely lost their eyesight were retraining their brains to see using this device and the senses on their tongue. I was pretty damn impressed.

Another implementation of this idea was a lady who had lost her ability to balance, and basically had developed vertigo. Using a device which rested on her head and a similar array on her tongue, the device would tell her when she was leaning forward or backward or whatever. So instead of using the inner ear or whatever it is that tells us that we're standing straight up, or leaning, the device was telling her through the sensor on her tongue. The REALLY neat part of this was that as she continued to have training sessions with the device, the rest of her body was learning to sense and remember what the different positions were. Eventually she completely stopped using the device, yet she retained the ability to balance.