10 October 2011
The winner of a Stanford University advanced computing competition has developed a new kind of touch-screen Braillewriter.
The creation, which could replace devices costing up to 10 times more, was developed by Adam Duran, a New Mexico State University undergraduate. He was assisted by Adrian Lew, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and Sohan Dharmaraja, a doctoral candidate at Stanford studying computational mathematics. Both mentors had to learn Braille before they could begin working on the project.
It is reported that the team did not create virtual keys that the fingertips must find; they made keys that find the fingertips. The user simply touches eight fingertips to the glass, and the keys orient themselves to the fingers. If the user becomes disoriented, a reset is as easy as lifting all eight fingers off the glass and putting them down again.
‘They can accommodate users whose fingers are small or large, those who type with fingers close together or far apart, even to allow a user to type on a tablet hanging around the neck with hands opposed as if playing a clarinet,’ said Dharmaraja.
Current Braillewriters on the market are essentially specialised laptops that cost, in some cases, $6,000 (£3,850) or more.
Beyond the price difference, the developers claim touch screens offer at least one other significant advantage over standard Braillewriters: ‘They’re customisable,’ Dharmaraja noted.
The competition is made possible as a result of collaboration between the US Army and several university and industry partners that make up the Army High-Performance Computing Research Center.