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A New Tactile Display will Help Visually Impaired Users to Feel 3D Shapes

Using a computer and select software seems trivial for the average users, but visually impaired users will struggle. The tasks become even more difficult when complicated visual tasks like 3D design are involved.

A team of researchers is working on a novel way to display 3D information, among which we can mention CAD and data from modeling programs, with the help of a 2.5D system that relies on movable pins to render the textures. The project seeks to help persons affected by visual impairments or blindness to complete visual tasks without the assistance of a sighted helper.

The innovative device relies on an array of 12×24 columns with rounded tops. They can be raised individually and can mimic the shape of 3D objects in real-time. It is hoped that the use of the device will allow people with visual impairments to craft custom tools and to contribute to fabrication technology in a greater way while also being faster.

It is important to note that the 2.5D aspect stems from the fact that it cannot recreate the entire object in the air. However, it is a great way to understand the shaped showed on a screen without being able to see it directly.  The resolution at which the object is showed is also low, but this is an inherent flaw of all tactile displays, which are also very expensive.

While the field of tactile displays has started to progress at a faster rate, more needs to be done to encourage companies to manufacture them. A real-time tactile display can change the shape shown quickly, allowing the user to observe even advanced shapes, like moving cross-sections.

Further work is needed before the device can be deemed to be a viable commercial product, but the current prototype is promising, and the team plans to revamp several traits to make it even better.


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