This $500 Tablet Brings Words to Blind Users’ Fingertips

This $500 Tablet Brings Words to Blind Users’ Fingertips
  1. This $500 Tablet Brings Words to Blind Users’ Fingertips
    The first of its kind, the device will include a touch screen and 14-line Braille…
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Most tablet computers are dominated by a touch screen. The one Slavi Slavev shows me is not most tablets, though.

He loads a website on the display, presses a silver button on the device's side, and tiny bubbles rise from various holes in a grid that dominates the top half of the gadget. Sixty-five words at a time, this tablet translates text from the Web and other digital sources into Braille so people who are blind or have low vision can more easily access anything from mindless jokes to e-books to political news.

Slavev is the chief technology officer and a cofounder of the startup that's making this tablet, the Blitab. Based in Vienna, Austria, the company is close to finalizing the device (it’s still pretty chunky), which it plans to start selling for about $500 in six months. With eight hours of use per day, it’s estimated to last for five days on one battery charge.

Though there are refreshableBrailledisplays on the market, they tend to cost thousands of dollars and include only one line—made up of pins that move up and down—so you can read just a few words at once.

“Imagine reading Harry Potter five words at a time,” cofounder and CEO Kristina Tsvetanova says. “It’s completely crazy.”

The Blitab’s Braille display includes 14 rows, each made up of 23 cells with six dots per cell. Every cell can present one letter of the Braille alphabet. Underneath the grid are numerous layers of fluids and a special kind of membrane that the company won’t specifically describe.

The Blitab, a tablet for people who are blind or have low vision, has a 14-line Braille display on the top and a touch screen on the bottom.

The startup’s online service converts text you see on the lower touch screen into Braille; pressing a button on the side of the Blitab prompts a micro-electromechanical actuator below each hole on the upper Braille display to push up an itty-bitty bubble. Pressing another bu…

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