For the first time, a touch screen Braille writer for the visually impaired has been developed. A Stanford University, Undergraduate student, Adam Duran is the brains behind the creation of the innovative application
The student developed the app during a two month competition organized by Army High-Performance Computing Research Center (AHCRC). The competition, sponsored by the U.S. Army, several universities, among other key industry players, is held every summer at Stanford. The best students from across the country are gathered here for a two month computing course. The students- who work alone or as a group- are assigned a mentor and each team, or individual student given a challenge to be completed at the end of the course.
Adam was one of the selected students, and it’s here that he portrayed his talents. He was working as an individual, under the mentorship of Adrian Lew, a mechanical engineering assistant professor and Sohan Dharmaraja, a Stanford doctoral candidate in computational mathematics. The initial assignment was to create a character recognition application that can transform Braille pages to readable text using a camera on a mobile device, phone or tablet. But they would later aim for a higher goal.
Good is not always the best!
After brainstorming, Adam and his mentors realized that though the initial challenge was a good idea, it was not the best solution to the problem in hand. What the visually impaired people needed the most was not an application for reading, but that a writing app. With this realization, they set out on a new and better challenge, but on the same course. They developed a tablet Braille writer.
How the tablet Braille writer works.
First they had to learn Braille. This was to help them understand how the Braille writer works and create a simple yet fun app that the visually impaired would relate to.
The Braille keypad is duplicated on a touch based tablet. The app is coded to resemble the Braille with 8 keys just like the Braille. Unlike the Braille, were one reads by feeling the bumps, the app uses a smart touch screen. All the user needs to do is place eight fingertips on the touch screen and the app will orient the keys to the fingers. To reset the user only needs to lift all the fingers from the touch screen. The app becomes your eyes and you don’t need to find the keys, the keys will find you.
Though there are other devices that are specifically meant for visually impaired, they are bulky and costs up to US$6,000. The app is simple to use, portable and compatible with Android tablets which cost as low as US$3,000.
The app can also be customized to suit the needs of a given user. It’s made to accommodate users who type with fingers apart or close together and those with small or large fingers.
The app is yet to be released due to some legal and technical issues that need to be addressed. But with these hurdles addressed, the app will be like no other standard Braille writer device in the market today. With the release of the touch screen app, writing will never be the same again for the visually challenged. The app promises more capabilities at an affordable price. It’s a must have, not only for the blind student, but also to all the visually challenged. No more using devices which offer so little yet so costly.