We weren’t surprised to learn that Braille tools are quite expensive. But it’s interesting to hear that there’s another class of tools altogether, and they are very cheap and imprecise. In devising the Braille Embossing Experience, aka BEE, [alatorre] sought to find an open-source middle ground. We think they succeeded marvelously.
Another surprising thing — while handheld embossers do exist, there is no system for filling out an A4 sheet of paper, say, to write a letter.
For Braille to be readable, the characters and lines must be properly spaced, and this requires some kind of moveable type-like device to correctly register the characters onto paper. BEE fills this void as well. The amazing thing is, there’s not much more to it than a marked-up piece of aluminum and some clever 3D printing.
There are two parts to this system — the positioning rail, which includes a landing box for the embosser with six holes in the bottom. The other part is a pair of embossers, one for letters A-M, and another for letters N-Z. To use BEE, just slide the rail to the right and start embossing letters right to left, then flip the paper over when finished.
Need to create something more permanent? Make a Braille PCB.
In the last few months, most of the world’s population has shied away from touching as many public things as possible. Unfortunately, anyone with low vision who relies on Braille signs, relief maps, and audio jacks doesn’t have this luxury — at least not yet.
A group of researchers at Bayreuth University in Germany are most of the way to solving this problem. They’re developing HaptiRead, a mid-air haptic feedback system that can be used as a touchless, refreshable display for Braille or 3D shapes. HaptiRead is based on a Stratos Explore development kit that has a field of 256 ultrasonic transducers. When a person approaches the display, a Leap motion sensor can detect their hand from up to 2.5 feet away and start providing information via sound waves. Each focus point is modulated with a different frequency to help differentiate between them.
HaptiRead can display information three ways: constant, which imitates static Braille displays, point by point, and row by row. The researchers claim up to 94% accuracy in trials, with the point by point method in the lead. The system is still a work in progress, as it can only do four cells’ worth of dot combination and needs to do six before it’s ready. Check out the brief explainer video after the break, or read the group’s paper [PDF download].
Want to play with refreshable Braille systems? This open-source display uses Flexinol wire to actuate the dots.
Continue reading “Hands-Free Haptic Braille Display Is Making Waves” →
If you have a serious visual impairment, using a computer isn’t easy. [Dhiraj] has a project that allows people fluent in Braille to use that language for input. In addition to having a set position for fingers, the device also reads the key pressed as you type. With some third party software it is possible to even create Word documents, according to [Dhiraj].
You can see the finished product in the video below. This is one of those projects where the idea is the hardest part. Reading six buttons and converting them into characters is fairly simple. Each Braille character uses a cell of six bumps and the buttons mimic those bumps (although laid out for your fingers).
Continue reading “Braille Keyboard Finds Its Voice” →
Our recent coverage of a Raspberry Pi Zero inside the official Pi keyboard prompted a reader to point us to another far more unusual keyboard with a Pi Zero inside it. It may be a couple of years old, but [Mario Lang]’s Braille keyboard and display with built-in Pi is still an interesting project and one that should give sighted readers who have not encountered a Braille display an introduction to the technology.
The model in question is a Handy Tech Active Star 40, which seems to have been designed to have a laptop sit on top of it. A laptop was not the limit of its capabilities, because it also has a compartment with a handy USB connector that was intended to take a smartphone and thus makes a perfect receptacle for a Pi Zero. Sadly the larger boards are a little tall with their connectors.
If this hack were preformed today he would undoubtedly have used a Pi Zero W, but since the Zero he had did not possess WiFi he relied upon a Bluetooth dongle for connectivity to the outside world. The BRLTTY screen reader provides a Braille interface to the Linux console, resulting in an all-in-one Braille computer in a very compact form factor.
This is one portable Braille computer, but it’s by no means the only one we’ve seen. Thanks [Simon Kainz] for the tip, and here’s a nod to the Pi keyboard that inspired him.
Signing up for college classes can be intimidating, from tuition, textbook requirements, to finding an engaging professor. Imagine signing up online, but you cannot use your monitor. We wager that roughly ninety-nine percent of the hackers reading this article have it displayed on a tablet, phone, or computer monitor. Conversely, “Only one percent of published books is available in Braille,” according to [Kristina Tsvetanova] who has created a hybrid tablet computer with a Braille display next to a touch-screen tablet running Android. The tablet accepts voice commands for launching apps, a feature baked right into Android. The idea came to her after helping a blind classmate sign up for classes.
Details on the mechanism are not clear, but they are calling it smart liquid, so it may be safe to assume hydraulic valves control the raised dots, which they call “tixels”. A rendering of the tablet can be seen below the break. The ability to create a full page of braille cells suggest they have made the technology pretty compact. We have seen Braille written on PCBs, a refreshable display based on vibrator motors, and a nicely sized Braille keyboard that can fit on the back of a mobile phone.
Continue reading “Braille On A Tablet Computer” →
We live in an amazing time where the availability of rapid prototyping tools and expertise to use them has expanded faster than at any other time in human history. We now have an amazing ability to quickly bring together creative solutions — perfect examples of this are the designs for specialized arm prosthetics, Braille printing, and custom wheelchair builds that came together last week.
Earlier this month we published details about the S.T.E.A.M. Fabrikarium program taking place at Maker’s Asylum in Mumbai. The five-day event was designed to match up groups of makers with mentors to build assistive devices which help improve the condition of differently-abled people.
The participants were split into eight teams and they came up with some amazing results at the end of the five-day program.
Hands-On: Prosthetic Designs That Go Beyond
Three teams worked on projects based on Bionico – a myoelectric prosthesis
DIY Prosthetic Socket – a Human Machine Interface : [Mahendra Pitav aka Mahen] lost his left arm during the series of train bomb blasts in Mumbai in 2006, which killed 200 and injured over 700 commuters. He uses a prosthetic arm which is essentially a three-pronged claw that is cable activated using his other good arm. While it is useful, the limited functionality restricted him from doing many simple things. The DIY Prosthetic socket team worked with [Mahen] and [Nico Huchet] from MyHumanKit (who lost his right arm in an accident 16 years back), and fabricated a prosthetic forearm for [Mahen] with a modular, 3D printed accessory socket. Embedded within the arm is a rechargeable power source that provides 5V USB output at the socket end to power the devices that are plugged in. It also provides a second port to help recharge mobile phones. Also embedded in the arm was an IR reflective sensor that can be used to sense muscle movements and help trigger specific functions of add-on circuits, for example servos.
Continue reading “Rapidly Prototyping Prosthetics, Braille, And Wheelchairs” →
Starting this weekend, a group of 65 invited Maker’s from various disciplines, along with 20 awesome Mentors, will gather at the Maker’s Asylum in Mumbai for the five day S.T.E.A.M. Fabrikarium program. The aim is to improve the capabilities of the differently-abled by building and expanding upon existing open source projects. At the same time, the teams will learn more about rapid prototyping techniques.
Among the participants will be at least 15 differently-abled people who will be a part of the whole process of learning as well as providing their inputs on the problems being tackled. Participants have an opportunity to understand how design thinking works and work on improving the existing designs.
Participants will team up and choose from five existing open source projects:
- Bionico – a myoelectric prosthesis
- Braille rap – using a 3D printer as a braille embosser.
- e-Trotti – a low-cost, removable electrical assistance for wheelchair use, made from electric scooter parts.
- Project Shiva – customized and beautiful upper limb prosthetics.
- Flying Wheelchair – a wheelchair specially adapted for use while paragliding.
The Asylum’s fully-fledged workshop facilities offer a wood shop, a laser cutter, a CNC, several 3D printers, electronics tools and instruments and an infectious environment that will allow the participants to learn a lot during the five short days. While working on prototyping their projects, all teams will have constant access to a team of mentors and industry experts who will help solve their problems and give guidance when necessary.
The Maker’s Asylum includes fully-fledged workshop facilities for the build process, and the team succeeded in bringing onboard a slew of industrial partners and supporters to ensure that the program can be offered to the participants for free. That is a great way to bring makerspaces, makers, and the industry together in a symbiotic program that benefits society. The program was developed in collaboration with My Human Kit, a company from France who selected the five open-source projects mentioned above. The Fabrikarium is made possible via Bonjour-India, which fosters Indo-French partnerships and exchanges.
Hackaday is proud to be a part of this program and will be present to help document all of the awesome projects. Participants will share their progress on Hackaday.io, so watch for updates over the coming week. To get an idea of what to expect at the S.T.E.A.M. Fabrikarium 2018, check out the video from an earlier version embedded below.
Continue reading “S.T.E.A.M. Fabrikarium Builds Assistive Tech In Mumbai” →