Tablet Offers New Light at The End of the Visually-Impaired Tunnel

 There are more than 85 million blind and visually-impaired people living in the world today whose lives are hampered both by the challenges of literacy and the hurdles that prevent them from totally assimilating into the societal community. Information technology has failed to understand and/or taken an interest in the unique needs and challenges facing those among us who cannot see. Although not deliberate, this circumstance was inevitable due to the fact that visual displays are the accepted medium for all forms of modern communication and information, including the Internet.

BlitabTechnology makes a difference

This Austrian-based startup company has addressed these important issues by creating the world's first Braille tablet that does not rely on mechanical elements to display whole pages of Braille text. Although not the first to offer a Braille interface, Blitab has altered the fact that in the past that specific technology has not been portable and accessible.

 

Blitab Tablet: Source:BlitabBlitab Tablet: Source:Blitab

 

The tablet is very similar to an e-reader but a smart liquid rather than a traditional LCD display is utilized. Small physical bubbles created via liquid-based technology rise and fall on demand that can map out any kind of letters, graphics, geometric figures or other content. It has the capacity to display one entire page in Braille text without mechancal elements.

In the words of Blitab's founder, Kristina Tsvetanova: "When the software recognizes text from either a USB drive or webpage, it converts them into Braille letters. We call the materials 'tixels' from 'tactile pixels' because we do not use any mechanical elements to trigger the dots."

 

Bitab Tablet at Work: Source: IndiegogoBitab Tablet at Work: Source: Indiegogo

 

A new kind of educational tablet  for the blind promises practical utility and a quiet revolution within a niche market that has barely been tapped. Up until now, Braille products (note-takers) have contained only one line of text and lacked the power to scan, audio-edit and recognize print documents. Displays consisted of bulky add-ons, which were used in conjunction with a desktop computer or mobile device. They were basically closed platforms, meaning there was no room for software expansion and device capabilities. In addition, the cost of these note-takers is prohibitive and ranges from 4,000 to 10,000£ (US $6,210-$15,527).

 

Braille Alphabet Tablet: IndiegogoBraille Alphabet Tablet: Indiegogo

 

The Blitab Braille display is incorporated into the tablet, eliminating the need to carry a second device to access a read-out of what is on the screen display. In the words of Slavi Slavev, Chief Technology Officer and founder of Blitab Technology: "The technology is quite scalable so we can output images and put any tactile relief representation like maps  graphics and geometric figures in order to serve as an educational tool for blind people."

The future of Blitab

Still in protype stage, the tablet is expected to move into the manufacturing phase by September of 2016. Progress will depend on the company's ability to raise a round of seed-stage funding. The goal is to create a lower costing tablet than those currently on the market and to expand the technology into a global community where accessibiity to education, technology and knowledge is open to all who seek to learn.

Closing thoughts on blindness:
The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. ~ Helen Keller

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