Researchers at the ÉCOLE POLYTECHNIQUE FÉDÉRALE DE LAUSANNE (EPFL) have developed a tablet to help people with visual impairments find their way around unfamiliar places. Part of Europe’s BlindPAD project, the device very quickly forms shapes and relief maps that users can then explore with their sense of touch. The tablet comprises 192 tiny buttons that can move up and down in just a few milliseconds, almost instantaneously creating patterns such as the layout of a building, street or conference room. The technique could also be applied in other contexts, for example, gloves that press on the hand, giving similar spatial information or perhaps tactile feedback in virtual reality. The researchers hope the device will be a powerful tool for translating information like maps and other imagery to a modality more easily accessed by people with vision loss.
BlindPad’s tablet makes visual information tactile for the vision-impaired
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