For my thesis project in my undergrad, I genuinely wanted to solve some problem using my engineering skills.
Visually impaired people access the digital world of information through speech synthesis software and refreshable braille displays. Braille has distinguished advantages over synthetic speech, especially because of its important role in uplifting education, employment and income. Refreshable braille displays are a combination of number of round-topped pins aligned in particular manner for the displaying of each character in braille script which is done using actuation and retraction of these pins which the visually impaired person can feel through his fingers. While braille books are a good means to archive information, refreshable displays will allow the user to access more information in a smaller form factor. Refreshable displays in future can be the hand held reading device for the blind.
Currently employed technology for the actuation and retraction of the pins is piezoelectric actuation which is commercially available. However, these Braille displays are typically priced in the range of USD 2500-4000 (USD 65-100 per Braille character) and are thus inaccessible to users in both developed and developing countries. Development of affordable Braille displays is thus a critical need.
Shape Memory Alloys (SMA) based actuation is a potential low cost alternative to the commercially available displays and is being used in this project to develop an affordable refreshable braille display. This display will be a portable display which when connected to a device such as a computer or a mobile phone through USB will display the contents the user desires to read. Refreshable Braille displays can prove to be a very useful product for the visually impaired people if available at an affordable price and its use in that case cannot be underrated. In this work we present an extremely low cost prototype of a single character refreshable braille display. We also demonstrate the use speech recognition for a fast paced self-learning experience.