Picture of Electronic Touching Slate

BlindCAD incorporates several R&D projects by members of our Blind-Lead Technology initiative. Our overarching goal is to make 2D and 3D computer-assisted design and rapid prototyping accessible to blind and low-vision makers, so thatblind students, engineers, and scientists can fully interact with their sighted coworkers and peers. Starting from basics, although sighted children have a huge variety of media with which they can scribble and draw (e.g., pen/pencil on paper, chalk on pavement, crayon on walls, etc.), blind children do not have comparably cheap, simple means for drawing raised lines with simultaneous tactile feedback. Our prototype Tac-dig and Wax-pen devices are low-cost tactile drawing tools, suitable for blind children in developing and low-resource environments. Both devices use cheap, commonly available consumables, and enable a child to draw raised lines directly onto the front surface of a page or canvas.Our AbleForm Tactile Printer is a prototype low-cost, electronic braille typewriter, which can also be connected to a computer or mobile device for printing tactile images, braille, or both (e.g., labeled figures, graphs, mathematical expressions). My current design uses only four electromechanical actuators, one each for paper feed, horizontal positioning, vertical positioning, and embossing. We are now training blind workers to perform the mechanical assembly, and we plan to start distributing AbleForm printers to schools for less than $50 (USD) per device by mid-2015. By contrast, commercial braillers retail for $500-$1000, and personal braille printers sell for$2000 and up.Anna shared a link describing the blind-accessible makerspace concept, as well as links showing Abhinav Dey's early work on a novel haptic contour display and its potential use with a computer as a real-time drawing interface. Abhinav and others have also been working on a set of physical construction pieces, the configuration of which is read electronically to produce a file for 3D printing.I am presently visiting Shillong in the northeast of India, where, together with my colleagues David Sexton and Spandana Cheruvu, I recently conducted a pilot run of a maker-induction/hands-on science program with a group of 40 kids, aged 11-17, about half of whom are blind. We are now preparing to run a design thinking and prototyping program with some of the older blind kids and other people from the blind community.Autodesk could help us by contributing expertise, equipment, and/or funds to support a more streamlined research effort. We would love to have Autodesk on our team as we extend computer-aided design and prototyping to underserved communities.

Haptic perception is the process of recognizing objects through touch. Here I can feel the slope of part of the drawing being touched using a servo motor. I made this for my blind friends to try out a new way of designing objects! Here I used Servo motors and Arduino Uno and hacked a mouse to make the device.

I have seen visually impaired people make some really awesome stuff like this:


While drawing blindfolded, a square in the haptic perception becomes radically different on paper. This is a problem in bridging the gap between haptic perception and the drawing interface we use. I've developed a device that gives tactile output of curvature of a drawing at a point by changing the slope of a servo motor fan. So, when drawn using this interface, the memory stores all the slopes at different points and accurately draws the shape imagined in our mind (or as we think it perceives it).

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