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Non-linear Braille reader?

On the Media had a very interesting interview about the drop in Braille usage from 50% of the blind to merely 10%. It gave me an idea.

Would it be helpful if the blind had a device built into computers, or attachable via USB or whatever, that had eight fingerpads (or maybe ten, with the thumb ones along the bottom) each of which could form a Braille character? Instead of running their fingers across a strip of Braille characters, the computer would create a burst of 8 (or 10) characters simultaneously, on a timed tick the speed of which the user could of course control. So, instead of reading by getting the letters one at a time, you would get them 8 (or 10) at a time. Might this speed up the reading of Braille?

It seems closer to how we actually read: In word-sized clumps, not letter by letter. So, to provide words as Gestalts, this finger-tip Braille display could in each tick present as many words as can be presented in 8 characters; words of more than 8 characters would be presented in as many ticks as it takes, with perhaps a slight change in tempo or an auditory cue to let the user know that the word is not yet complete. But, all of that is just software.

I did a quick patent search at Google Patent and didn’t immediately find anything. Is that because this is not a good idea? Or am I just bad at searching for patents?

fingerpad braille for non-sequential reading

7 Responses to “Non-linear Braille reader?”

  1. I had exactly this idea in 1982. I planned to base the pin-firing mechanism on dot-matrix printheads and have a switch at either end that your finger would hit to load the next or previous line of characters. I actually started to model it on my Ohio Scientific Suberboard II in BASIC, and write some solenoid driver code in assembly.

    But of course, being 21 at the time I had more pressing (i.e hedonistic) things on my mind and never ended up doing anything with it.

    I vaguely remember in the late 90s having seen something that seemed like an implementation of the idea, but not lately. I’ll keep my eye out.

  2. I remember seeing such a device, perhaps on BBC’s Tomorrow’s World programme.

  3. That’s a cool idea. Hope someone follows through with something tangible.

  4. Sounds like you’re describing the device the character Whistler uses in the 1992 film Sneakers ( Unfortunately I can’t find a clip with the device in use, but it’s a great film, well worth watching.

  5. Joho the Blog » Non-linear Braille reader?…

    Joho the Blog » Non-linear Braille reader?…

  6. Agree, such a device should be around already.
    When you watch people reading Braille they slide their fingers over the ‘letters’. I think its less a matrix of separate fields that display one word, but one large field through which the text runs animated like a wave from right to left.
    Not the thumb but pressure of the reading hand could be used to pause and control speed of reverse and forward. But what do we know? We need to ask a person who is a Braille reader.

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