October 12, 2005.
Blind people may soon be reading messages using the world's first portable electronic Braille.
The pocket-sized display, which can be rolled up like a newspaper, is designed to connect to mobile phones and laptops.
Researchers in Japan have produced a 16-centimetre-square prototype just one millimetre thick which weighs five grams.
It incorporates 144 plastic "paddles" beneath a thin rubber surface which bend upwards when an electric current is applied.
On the tip of each paddle is a sphere under a millimetre across that rises and produces a bump in the rubber.
The bumps produce the Braille message, which can be read the normal way by feeling with the fingertips.
When the current is switched off, the paddles straighten and the bumps disappear.
Inventor Takao Someya, from the University of Tokyo, will present the device at the International Electron Devices meeting in Washington DC in December, New Scientist magazine reported.
The device could go beyond Braille to allow the blind to feel images as well as words, says Someya.
But Yoseph Bar-Cohen, an electronics expert at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena said: "If a blind person cannot feel the movement of the dots, the device will not be practical."
Source URL: http://www.netscape.co.uk/technology/1.html.
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