20 Jul

3D Printer can be used to Aid the Visually Impaired students

Braille is a tactile writing system, which is commonly used by the visually impaired and partially sighted. With the recent development of braille printers, written materials in braille has greatly helped the visually impaired and partially sighted individuals but, this is not to say that there are still many remaining problems such as books that are immobile due to their size and volume as well as durability. Moreover, there are other problems such as not enough books, materials, works, and data for such individuals.

New technology has been developed to make tactile objects with ease thanks to the convergence technology of 3D printing and 3D thermal reflow treatment, which can be denoted as the revolution in manufacturing technology. Using the technology, not only braille books, but also braille picture books and teaching materials can be made with greater flexibility in color, height and size. It is also harmless to human body since it does not require UV coating or harmful chemical treatment.

The research team led by Dr Myoung-Woon Moon at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology developed a new method by converging 3D printing and 3D surface thermal reflow treatment techniques to produce touchable objects with detailed lines and curves. The research team used thermal reflow treatment on the surface to enhance durability and adhesiveness. The newly developed technique has been filed for patent registration domestically. In addition, this research was accepted for publication by the journal of RSC Advances with the title, “3D Printed Tactile Pattern Formation on Paper with Termal Reflow Method.”

Presently, materials available for the visually impaired and partially sighted are mostly braille documents or books with a series of raised dots on paper. For basic objects such as apple, tree, etc., raised dots that outline the object was used in picture books. Further, information on subways or public buildings are sometimes difficult to understand not to mention making complex books on contours of maps, earthquake occurrence, and such educational materials in braille was very difficult.

Among all 3D printing technologies, the research team used the layer technique, which stacks each filament layer one at a time based on the data of 3D model. The technology enables the manufacturing of miniature models or prototype of complex 3D objects using computer aided drawing (CAD) at low cost in short time. (Figure 1a) With this method, the shape, size and thickness of the finished product can be controlled by adjusting the number of filament layers.

Objects produced using this technique, will add interest and excitement to the current braille books by putting detailed tables and figures into the context, which in turn will make reading much more interesting for the visually impaired or partially sighted individuals. In addition, changing the colors of filaments bring various colors to 3D models without difficulties (Figure 1b) and much more complex structures like the contours of a map representing mountainous areas can be produced in colors that are similar to the real thing. Moreover, the time it took to produce educational materials for the visually impaired or partially sighted, which was several month could be cut down to several hours, satisfying the demand from the educational fields of the visually handicapped.

For tactile objects for the visually impaired or partially sighed, it is important to be harmless to human body and durable, due to the fact that these objects are touched and felt by hands. For this reason, the research team used the thermal reflow processing for surface treatment. If the surface of the produced object is treated with temperatures of 160°C or higher, the solid filament melts to fill the tiniest crevices and gets absorbed into the object creating a surface with better adhesiveness (Figure 2). The surface treated objects are made from plastic hence it is more durable than objects made out of paper not to mention being more resistant to external impact thanks to the treatment (Figure 3). The thermal reflow treatment can also reduce the surface roughness of objects made by 3D printing process, which is created in the production stage.

This newly developed surface treatment technique not only works for paper but also on plastic, metal, ceramics, and other various materials in controlling the adhesiveness between braille and the surface. Also, using 3D printer to produce teaching materials such as a map of the nation or growing process of animals or plants will surly add to the educational development of the visually impaired and partially sighted students in understanding the context and materials much better.

Dr. Kwang-Ryeol Lee Director-General of the Institute for Multidisciplinary Convergence of Matter at KIST said, “The materials have been developed to enhance the quality of life and learning of the visually impaired and partially sighted students but, it is also expected to be used in other educational fields for general students. We will put our utmost efforts in R&D that enables a happier life and better education for the physically challenged students.”


20 Jul

Iran builds URL device for the blind

TEHRAN (ISNA)- Iranian researchers have designed a URL device to be placed in public places, including subways to help blind people find their ways.

The URL device is made up of two hardware and software parts. Its hardware, used by blind people, has been established and the software is installed on blind people’s cell phone.

The hardware and cell phone are attached via Bluetooth. When the blind user activates the software in his cell phone he is informed via an alarm when he is 50 meters of the device. The user then presses Select Button and hears the name of the place through his cell phone.

Then he presses Option Button in his cell phone and a light music is played in the intended site, helping the blind person find the place without getting help from others.

The URL device is going to be established in certain subway stations in Tehran.


19 Jul

Finger Reader: Is this the end of Braille?

What is Finger Reader?
Finger Reader is a device that assists visually impaired users with reading texts or words. It’s basically a ring the user wears on their index finger that houses a tiny camera and some haptic actuators for feedback. When a visually impaired person wants to read some text around them, maybe a business card, a menu in a restaurant, a sign, they point their finger at the surface with the text and the device reads the words out loud. They can go faster, slower, go back, etc, and get feedback if they are vearing off a line of text nudging their finger back in the right direction.

Finger Reader is just a prototype at this point what’s the next step?
Indeed, Finger Reader is a proof of concept prototype. A lot more work needs to happen to make this into an easy to use, reliable product that could be commercialized and useful for the public.

Briefly, what is the process by which this work could become a product (how does it get licensed and commercialized)?
The students at the MIT Media Lab are very entrepreneurial, about 1 in 3 or 4 of our graduates start a company based on their graduate research. We also work with some of our industry sponsors in commercializing our inventions, as well as offer internal funding programs annually.

How did the idea come about?
Our research lab at the MIT Media Lab is focused on developing more natural user interfaces. By that we mean devices that are more of a natural extension of people and their behaviors. We thought wearing a camera on your index finger would make for a natural interface, because
people naturally point at things to ask questions about what’s around them. About 2.8% of the population has a visual impairment, and the solutions they use right now for reading text are far from optimal. We speculated that giving them a wearable device that is quicker to use and gives them real time feedback would make their lives easier.

This may help visually impaired people but what about other communities with specific needs?
While most of our work so far has gone into helping visually impaired, the same approach of a ring on the finger could be used to help people without a visual impairment. Such as people with dyslexia, second language learners, tourists in need of translation, young children learning their first language or even people recovering from brain trauma. We are very interested in exploring these other applications of the device.

Is it correct that the system can translate from one language to another as it’s reading? (Like simultaneous translation?)
We have not actually implemented this application yet, but we do not see a reason why that could not be done. There are similar apps available for Smart Phones today, what the finger reader would add is that the whole process would be more quick and seamless, effectively just pointing your finger at some text and saying “translate”.

What is the future of wearable tech?
It is clear that today’s personal devices such as tablets and phones are very disruptive in their use. There is a lot of research these days both in academia and in industry on more natural user interfaces that give us more seamless access to digital information and services while we are going about doing other things. We suspect in the coming years we will see a lot more wearable devices such as glasses, bracelets and watches enabling us to glance at some relevant information without running into a telephone pole or getting into an accident.

Are there plans for the ring to be attached to a smartphone or mobile device instead of a computer?
This would obviously be one of the next steps in turning this into a commercial product. One feature of this ring is exactly that it can be used more easily in a mobile context without causing much disruption.

What upgrades improvements do you want to do to the Finger Reader?
Make it faster, more reliable, smaller and explore applications for people without visual impairments.

Is there an estimate of the market size for this type of device?
Almost 3% of the population is visually impaired, so that is the market size for the FingerReader. But down the road we think it has potential to assist not only visually impaired persons but also the elderly, children, language learners and tourists.

Is this the end of Braille?
We do not think so, since there is much more to do and perfect before it can be reliable compared to Braille. Perhaps in the future, when many of problems are resolved and VI people can rely on this technology to be robust, some may no longer need to learn Braille as they could access regular printed text. Not all VI people know Braille to begin with, only 9%, and actually many VI people manage regular printed books and largeprints.

Braille still makes sense, especially for Books and also in situations where the user does not want to hear the words spoken out loud (personal correspondence, health matters). But many books and other texts are not currently available in Braille: Only a fraction of books exists in Braille format. In addition, things like letters, menus, reports, magazines, etc do not and most likely will not exist in Braille. One of the main values of the device is that it makes a lot more content accessible to the blind in an immediate and real time way.

19 Jul


The FingerReader is a wearable device that assists in reading printed text. It is a tool both for visually impaired people that require help with accessing printed text, as well as an aid for language translation. Wearers scan a text line with their finger and receive an audio feedback of the words and a haptic feedback of the layout: start and end of line, new line, and other cues. The FingerReader algorithm knows to detect and give feedback when the user veers away from the baseline of the text, and helps them maintain a straight scanning motion within the line. The FingerReader is just a research prototype at this point. Source: MIT : Contact: [email protected]

Finger Reader: Is this the end of Braille?