Jussi Rantala of Finland's University of Tampere is working on a project that would allow the visually impaired to use touch-screen devices such as iPhones. Rantala's research team is working with a Nokia 770 Internet Tablet, which has a touch screen with a piezoelectric material that vibrates when an electric signal is applied to it. They have installed software that uses a single pulse of intense vibration to signify raised dots, and a longer vibration of several weaker pulses for an absent dot.
In testing, the researchers found that having users place a finger anywhere on the screen and hold it still was the best approach for receiving vibrations for reading. The mobile device then displays a character by vibrating the sequence of six dots, which is 360 milliseconds apart. "It took some time for them to start reading, because this representation is totally different from anything else that they had previously used," Rantala says.
Eventually, volunteers were able to read a character in 1.25 seconds. The team will now focus on presenting words and sentences with Braille characters for vibrating touch screens.
From New Scientist
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