This past summer a select group of undergraduates from across the country gathered at Stanford's Army High-Performance Computing Research Center for a two-month immersion into the wonders of advanced computing. During the course, New Mexico State University student Adam Duran worked with Adrian Lew, PhD, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford, and Sohan Dharmaraja, a Stanford doctoral candidate studying computational mathematics, to develop a Braille writer for a touchscreen tablet.
Technology Review reports:
Touchscreens are funny creatures. One the one hand, they're touchscreens, specializing in the sense that the blind already use to read and write. On the other hand, they're touchscreens, meaning they're uniform and flat, and seemingly impossible to navigate without sight. Duran et al. knew that physical Braille writers had one major advantage: blind users could simply feel where the keys were. But how to solve that problem on a level sheet of glass?
Touchscreens have one other feature though--they're smart. The team realized that they didn't have to make keys in a set location that the user had to find; the user could simply set his fingers down, and the keys could orient themselves accordingly. Each time the user lifts all his fingers off the screen and sets them down again, the keyboard would adjust to the fingers' new location.
A video demonstration of the app [above] shows other neat tricks that a tablet equipped with computerized speech can pull; by dragging your finger to the side, you can activate a menu that lets you switch into different modes--a mathematical notation mode, say, or one for the symbols of chemistry.