Touchscreens – How blind people can see pictures on a computer

Thanks to braille or reading software known as screen readers, blind and partially sighted people can now read text on the computer screen. In the case of pictures, graphics and movies, however, they still rely heavily on audio description.

Simple graphics such as bar charts can be prepared in such a way that they can also be “read” by blind people on the computer. The lines of the bars appear as raised points on a surface.

Bastian Rapp, professor of process technology at the University of Friborg, explains that you can trace them with your finger on the screen.

Colors can be represented using point heights

On the other hand, the images are more difficult to represent. But that should also be possible at some point:

“In principle, tactile information can also be represented more than just binary, I say, raised and not raised, as we did in the case of our bar graph. You can represent different colors at different point heights. . “

On the one hand, it is about processing the data of an image in such a way that it can be recorded using tactile means, explains Rapp. On the other hand, it is about developing a display on which the blind can then read this information.

Dissolving like a Gameboy from 1990

The first models of such screens are already available. But even the best currently on the market would only be “about one-sixth the resolution of a 1990 Nintendo Gameboy – and cost several tens of thousands of dollars,” Rapp said.

In collaboration with a research group, he is working on improving the performance of these screens: “What we are aiming for in our science are screens of a size that is a little less than a millimeter of spacing. points, because it is a size which is very easy to use Continuously Can represent lines. You don’t have to be finer there. ”

Soon the first tangible animations?

While, according to Rapp, it’s difficult to display a full frame, this is especially true for moving images.

Aiming at screens with a repetition rate of ten Hertz, so the scientist. “That means you can set ten frames per second and at least display animation that way.”

Rapp, on the other hand, considers it unrealistic to implement a full movie in this way – also because the fingers cannot feel the surface at the necessary speed. “It doesn’t work as fast as when you look at a photo to be able to take a photo right away,” he emphasizes. But: “We hope that we will have the first moving animations in a few years.”

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