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February 6, 2016 AT 6:00 am

In Search of an Affordable Tablet for the Blind

Research at the University of Michigan is making dreams of a useful (yet affordable) braille tablet into reality, Via MITtechnologyreview

The device, which is under development at the University of Michigan, uses liquid or air to fill tiny bubbles, which then pop up and create the blocks of raised dots that make up Braille. Each bubble has what is essentially a logic gate that opens or remains closed to control the flow of liquid after each command, according to Sile O’Modhrain, a professor of performing arts technology who collaborated on the tablet.

Existing refreshable Braille displays tend to max out at one line of text and cost several thousand dollars. They use plastic pins pushed up and down by a motor. The Michigan team found it impossible to pack the pins in densely enough to create a reasonably sized full-page display, and as a result started from scratch with the microfluidic option. The switch could help them make the final product tablet-sized instead of laptop-sized, like existing refreshable displays.

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