Innovation of the week: An affordable, changeable tablet for the blind

This full-size tablet features refreshable Braille

A refreshable Braille tablet "could make topics like science and math more easily accessible to the blind," said Signe Brewster at Technology Review. Borrowing from microfluids technology, researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a full-size tablet that uses liquid or air to fill tiny bubbles, which pop up on the display to form the blocks of raised dots that make up Braille.

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Existing refreshable Braille displays typically use plastic pins pushed up and down by motor, but these tablets are bulky and expensive, and can only show one line of text at a time. Braille use has declined with the rise of text-to-speech software, but it's still essential for conveying more visual concepts. "Anything where you want to be able to see stuff written down, like coding or music or even just mathematics, you really have to work in Braille," said professor Sile O'Modhrain, who collaborated on the tablet.

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