Wax-based Braille display makes e-reading available to blind

22 April 2014
By Tereza Pultarova
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A wax-based Braille display for e-readers has been developed as part of the EU-funded Anagraphs project

A wax-based Braille display for e-readers has been developed as part of the EU-funded Anagraphs project

An EU-funded consortium is developing a Braille display for e-readers that is believed to help visually impaired people to take full advantage of e-reading for the first time.

The Anagraphs device, which can be connected to any existing e-reader or personal computer, uses resistive heat technology to form Braille dots in the device’s wax screen.

Compared with existing digital Braille technology using round-tipped pins raised through holes in a flat surface, the Anagraphs device is not only lighter but also cheaper.

“Affordability was one of the top priorities from the outset with Anagraphs,” said Peter Fowell, Anagraphs Project Manager at Pera Technology – the company serving as the project’s coordinator.

“Braille pin devices, which have thus far been the extent of digital Braille technology, are not cheap. Our aim was to drive down cost through the use of wax actuation to ensure as many people as possible have access to the device, and Anragraphs is currently of a lower cost than current single line Braille pin devices.”

The device uses the so-called thermo-hydraulic micro-actuation and software developed by Pera Technology which allows the display’s 6,000 Braille dots to be activated as the resistive heat expands the paraffin waxes in the screen from liquid to solid.

The Anagraphs team, involving researchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute of Photonic Microsystems, and private companies C.K. Productions, Innora, and Hobart Lasers, believes the display will finally open the vast treasures of literature to the blind, enabling them to take full advantage of e-readers, squeezing whole libraries into one tiny handheld gadget.

“In an age where consumer technology is irrevocably entwined within our daily lives, e-readers provide a practical bolthole away from the world around us,” Fowell explained. “Given how far mainstream consumer technology has come in such a comparatively short space of time, it is imperative that everyone – no matter their physical attributes – is able to benefit from the constant research and development going on in this field.”

The project received £1.23m as part of the EU Seventh Framework Programme and is currently in final stages of development.

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