Touching is Believing

By Lauren Gravitz
Apr 1, 2003 6:00 AMNov 12, 2019 4:57 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

A novel display may soon help blind people perceive photographs and other images by touch, much as the braille alphabet allows them to read words. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, who worked on a device that translates digital text into braille, recently turned their attention to another problem. "There's a real need for an affordable display that will handle graphics," says computer engineer John Roberts, who heads the NIST team. Roberts's machine creates a simpler, reusable type of tactile display using a thin rod that runs under a bed of more than 3,600 fine, rounded pins. The rod pushes the pins up to draw the desired image; an underlying sheet of metal, with one hole for every pin, is then shifted slightly to lock the pins in place. The resulting "image" is about half the size of a sheet of writing paper. When hooked up to a computer and a scanner, the NIST display can create tactile versions of images ranging from book illustrations to Web sites. Roberts, who is talking to manufacturers, says a commercial version of the display could be produced for about $2,000.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.