Machine Design

Electronic “Paper” Changes Shape to Let Blind People Read

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have recently launched a project to create a dynamic electronic surface that will let blind and visually impaired people “feel” mathematical graphics, diagrams, and other visuals displayed on computer screens, including pictures and maps.

The device will use an electroactive polymer layer covered with a thin layer of gold that rises slightly, possibly even wiggles, in response to electrical signals. Beneath that layer will be a layer of isolated electrodes that control segments of the polymer/gold layer. And below that will be a touchscreen connected to a computer. Audible feedback may be used to guide users’ fingers along lines in a graph or diagram. A prototype is expected in three years.

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