New Touchable Tablet Helps Guide People with Vision Disabilities

Global Accessibility News

15th May 2017

New Touchable Tablet Helps Guide People with Vision Disabilities

Researchers at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a tablet to help people with a vision disability find their way around unfamiliar places. The device very quickly forms shapes and relief maps that users can then explore with their fingers, using their sense of touch. The tablet could also be used to help school children with vision disabilities learn subjects such as geometry or mathematics.

Navigating in an unfamiliar setting is a major challenge for people with vision disabiities. To make it easier for them to find their way, EPFL researchers have developed a lightweight and reconfigurable touchscreen tablet capable of generating shapes and maps. Users can then “read” the graphic data on the screen with their fingers. The research is part of the European project Blindpad.

Measuring 12 by 15 centimeters, the tablet comprises 192 tiny buttons that can move up and down in just a few milliseconds, almost instantaneously creating patterns such as the layout of a building, street or conference room. Users can also zoom in on a specific part of the map. The actuators are fast enough to make individual buttons vibrate. The technology has already been tested by several visually impaired people and will be presented at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2017) in Denver on 6 May.

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