Reduced-cost Braille display for use with computers

Apparently a Braille computer display can cost several thousand dollars. That’s why [David Pankhurst] is working on a low-cost alternative. His offering is an open source version he calls the Audrey Braille Display.

The concept is quite good. This prototype has one line of six Braille characters. Each character is made of two sliding strips containing eight arrangements of bumps. These can make up any character when positioned correctly. Two motors do all the work, one engages a single strip to reposition it, the other moves the first motor to select which strip should move. This is explained quite well in [David’s] most recent post. Or you can get a preview of the physical build here.

The concept is sound, but the refresh rate must be very slow. We wonder if there’s a way to keep one motor stationary and use solenoids to engage a drive shaft on the individual slide rods? This way, every row could be changed at the same time, disengaging when the appropriate slot is reached.

This hardware is much needed until developing Braille technologies actually come to market.

[via Dangerous Prototypes]

12 thoughts on “Reduced-cost Braille display for use with computers

  1. Why cant you just have 6 simple solenoids pulling on 6 cables to retract each dot (which is spring in the up position) is there a patent issue? as this sort of thing seems much simpler and faster refresh. without the expense of piezo drivers in commercial applications.

    1. Consider some additional design factors

      – power consumption
      – space
      – durability

      lining up dozens of solenoids to make several characters will consume a lot of power and solenoids aren’t very compact. Also they need to be coupled with some kind of elastomer to make it durable enough to read. An ideal technology wouldn’t require constant power to display a character, be extremely compact and be able to withstand the human touch.

  2. Having become disabled myself, the concerns of the disabled are a particular interest of mine. For the sake of the blind who could put this appliance to use as soon as it comes available, I wish David the best of luck with it’s development.

    Having said that, while Braille certainly seems to have utility in many areas, there is a newer,yet but old method of encoding characters that doesn’t require eyesight to “see”, the international Morse Code. Even those who are hearing impaired can copy Morse Code by touch. In the event the goal is making the the printed word accessible to the blind, with the hearing impaired benefiting as well I believe the Morse Code should be looked into as a solution. Most if not all the technical details have already been worked out, helping a lot in that area. Not that I want to appear to be accusing David of anything, but the either or mentality towards solutions of holds the world back in general, and by observation is the effect is much worse when the abled bodied fall in that trap when attempting to assist the disabled. Morse Code can’t eliminate the need for Braille in public places, but he Morse code can make nearly all text accessible to the blind. The blind would be required to learn both Braille, and Morse Code to do what we sighted do easily. Mt guess is very few will complain if it opens the world much more to them. Good luck with the project David

    1. Unlike what the movies suggest audible morse code is painfully slow requiring many beeps for some characters, and pauses between them, and it obviously has to be done sequentially, and nowadays computers can just read stuff out in normal language instead if you go for sound.
      As for embossed morse code, that too requires much more space than braille and is probably also slower to read.

      1. Embossed Morse Code? I never thought I would have needed to specify audible Morse Code, or in the case of a person who is also hearing impaired a vibrating surface.Painfully slow is a relative term. In the event it can be shown a blind person can learn to read Braille faster, in time period they could learn to copy Morse Code it wouldn’t hurt my feelings. My intent was to point out a possibility that could aid the blind at a lower cost. I have no infatuation with Morse Code because I’m licensed as a amateur radio operator, in fact I rarely used it anymore than, I needed to become licensed, but I understand it’s potential utility. For those who do learn to copy Morse Code, the number of “dots”, and pauses aren’t relative because they learn the rhythm of each Character, and with experience learn the rhythm of whole words. I would expect those learning Braille learn to recognize the pattern of a character without having to analyze the position of each raided point. Text to speech is a possible solution but I can’t see it done as well, inexpensively, and compactly as text to Morse. Morse to text would allow the blind to create text just as inexpensively.

  3. Just a thought but have you seen those date stampers? They have rubber belts with multiple characters on them… If they were Braille and raised, you could have a similar system for selecting and changing the characters but it would be simpler to introduce multiple lines of text, if you for instance put a series of black marks on the inside as an encoder of sorts odd even odd even or similar with an optical reflector gate to read the position it might be able to be made faster. maybe a shift register and counter arrangement for each one or maybe set them in pairs like the old counters from tape players to make encoding easier. if I had lots of free time and money I would give this a go (:

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