“Tactile” Converts Text To Braille In Real Time (For Books, Magazines, Food Menus..)

photo of current version of tactile placed on top of a book and displaying six characters in braille.

If a blind person wants to read a book, they either have to get a braille version of it, or get it converted to audio so they could start listening to its content. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just grab a book, and a braille accessory could start converting the book’s text to braille there and then?

A team of women at MIT, who are all engineering undergraduates, have created a prototype of a device that does just that. Named Tactile, this device displays six characters in braille at a time. This is how it works: a blind user places Tactile on a page that has English text. Tactile, which has a built in camera, takes a photo of the words, and using Microsoft’s ComputerVision API and OCR identifies the characters on the page. Right after that, Tactile’s software converts these characters into braille, and also initiates the mechanical system in the box that pushes the pins up and down in order to display braille characters.

This device can be helpful not just to read books but also in various other scenarios. A lot of text available to us in our surroundings is not available in electronic format or braille. Think about restaurant menus, flyers, brochures, business cards, and several documents that are just handed to us on the go.

Currently, the team is figuring out a better way to raise and lower the pins. Current braille devices use piezoelectronics to operate pins which is an expensive method. The team hopes that they can come up with a cheaper method to keep the cost of the final product down. They eventually hope to sell a much compact version Tactile for no more than $200, and expect it to hit the market in the next two years.

Watch the video below to learn more about the enthusiastic Tactile team, and hit the source link for more details.

Source: Smithsonian

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