The working prototype is here!
The device is inspired by the inspiring playful toys made by blind people with whom I work, at Blind Lead Initiative, Tamil Nadu, India. They are excellent at making stuff with their hand, so it would be so awesome if they could upload their designs online, and more importantly share design ideas with people. So, I have made an interface for a person to draw a 2D sketch into a computer using touch, and the person using a computer in another place can download the sketch and feel the drawing using this device, independent of sight.
Team: Abhinav Gupta, Sankalp Modi, Rashi Nigam, Bhaskar Mukherjee
Advisor: David Sexton, Ted Moallem
This is a great chance to explore visualization through touch and sound.
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.
Arvind Gupta has made a very simple setup using which the blind can communicate their drawings easily, but using woolen thread on a velcro sheet http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/toys/touchingslate.... .
Step 1: Why build this?
This device can help can help create interest among visually impaired persons to use the computer, especially for sharing designs, play games, and explore visualizations and more.
This interface aims to bridge the communication gap between people who aren't blind and who are, by making an inclusive platform which can be used by both parties primarily through sense of touch, added by audio feedback.
This device also plans to introduce a more user-friendly system of tactile drawings. For example, if I'm given a tactile drawing of map of India for the first time, I'll need to be guided to explore the drawing in a particular sequence and someone will need to help me distinguish the different states of India. Here, the wheel gives you the direction to move the pen on the velcro, so you are feeling the drawing in a sequential order. So, as you feel the different parts of the drawing, audio labels are played in an order.
Also, you can play car racing games using this, by feeling the race track. Assume your car is the pen, so you have to move the pen from point A to point B by avoiding all 'obstacles'. Remember that you have a wheel attached to your pen, which allows you to move the pen in one direction only. Otherwise, the wheel would skid. To give you a feedback of obstacles, the alignment of the wheel changes, thus making you feel a certain force making your car turn. If you move your pen too fast, you wheel will skid when the obstacle comes and you'll lose the game.