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Optical-to-Tactile Image Conversion for the Blind

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4 Author(s)
Bliss, J.C. ; Stanford Research Institute, Menlo Park, Calif. ; Katcher, M.H. ; Rogers, C.H. ; Shepard, R.P.

This paper describes two optical-to-tactile imageconversion systems being developed for the blind. The first is a reading aid in which an area on the printed page about the size of a letterspace is translated into a corresponding vibratory tactile image. The tactile image is produced by a 24-by-6 array of pins driven by piezoelectric bimorphs. The array of 144 pins fits on the distal and a portion of the middle phalanges of one finger. The piezoelectric bimorphs cause the pins to impact the skin in a nonlinear manner. Precise measurements on this bimorph-finger system are given. These measurements also show that shades of "grey" can be displayed by sequentially varying the threshold level. Three experiments conducted with the reading aid involved measurement of legibility, reading rate, and the effect of field of view. Legibility in the 92-98 percent range was obtained at the design magnification. A reading rate of 50 words per minute was achieved with one subject after roughly 160 hours of practice. Three other subjects achieved reading rates of over 10 words per minute after about 40 hours of practice. Reading rate increased markedly as the number of columns in the array was varied from one to six. The second optical-to-tactile image-conversion system is merely an extension of the first to permit information to be acquired from the environment. In fact, ultimately only one system with two sets of optics, one appropriate for the printed page and one appropriate for environment sensing, would be used.

Published in:

Man-Machine Systems, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:11 ,  Issue: 1 )

Date of Publication:

March 1970

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