Various companies – including Amazon and Sony – might be dipping their toes in the electronic book reader market, but what about blind people who like the thought of carrying a small library around in their pocket?
Although Amazon's Kindle 2 features a controversial
text-to-speech synthesizer, it's fair to say that the blind are not exactly the target market for ebook readers. When you consider that books in Braille are even better candidates for conversion than their printed counterparts – each Braille book can be up to twice as thick as a normal printed copy – it's a wonder nobody has thought to tap into the demand.
Designers Seon-Keun Park, Byung-Min Woo, Sun-Hye Woo and Jin-Sun Park have come up with a concept
– via Gizmodo
– that they believe might just be the solution. Replacing the standard display with an electroactive polymer, the group imagine an ebook reader which is capable of raising parts of the surface when a charge is passed through the screen.
As the polymer would work in a similar way to the e-ink displays currently adorning the reader devices aimed at the sighted, battery life is conserved due to the fact that the areas would remain raised even when power isn't being applied to the device.
By passing a charge through certain areas of the screen, it would be possible for the device – designed to give a larger surface area than a traditional ebook reader – to raise dots and render Braille.
While the market for such a device would be limited by its very nature, it's a clever design – and one which would bring the advantages of electronic books to a currently under-served population.
Do you think that the Braille reader concept holds promise, or is the target market too small for the design to ever be commercialised? Is the Braille implementation better than simply equipping a standard reader with text-to-speech capabilities – or using audio books in the first place? Share your thoughts over in the forums