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Picture of BlindCAD
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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?

Picture of Why build this?
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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.

 
Susitna5 months ago
I hope to see more projects from you. One of my friends went blind about 5 years ago, and I am always looking for something she can use, instead of spending most her time listening to TV.
abhinavonowinew (author)  Susitna5 months ago

Hey thanks Susitna! I see your interest in building assistive devices, awesome!

Actually, this project was made at a great makerspace run by the blind: http://blindlead.mit.edu/blog/2012/03/blind-accessible-makerspaces/

It would be great to collaborate with you on a project, what say? Ideas?

I used to do basic home health care (a job that paid less than minimum wage, but I loved), until my own arthritis became too severe. A few years ago that my rapidly deteriorating vision was macular degeneration. I had a lot of time to think about adapting before my new doc told me it was just cataracts. If when working with my friend Bear, I will be glad to send ideas. I know there is one Ibole for making a cap that beeps when approaching obstacles that I plan to make for her. I will be watching you for ideas I can use. Thank you for your post. Mary Alice