Saturday, December 25, 2010

Planned Thimble is a Braille-powered mobile computing interface for blind people

From Fastco Design:

The idea behind Thimble is a Braille-powered mobile computing interface that uses Bluetooth, optical character recognition, and voice commands to create an always-on, web-connected heads-up display for blind people.

Conceived by Artefact and the Industrial Design Department at the University of Washington, the Thimble would use Braille to recreate the effortlessly connected mobile-computing experiences that sighted folks take for granted -- like navigating a strange city with Google maps, or scanning Tweets and news headlines in a coffee shop.

So how would it work? Well, it all starts with an "electro-tactile grid array"...

The real genius of the Thimble concept: It would allow a visually impaired person to surf and scan news headlines, via a web-enabled "ticker" that courses under her fingertip in Braille:

Voice commands to the Thimble would cue it to download information like movie times or train schedules and "display" them in Braille to the wearer's fingertip.

But what about the serendipitous, non-digital discoveries that the visual world offers, like spotting a flyer for a cool-sounding band playing at the club down the street? The Thimble can handle that too: just point your finger at the poster, and a tiny scanner uses optical character recognition to translate the text into another discreet Braille feed.