Background: Blindness affects more than 32.4 million people worldwide. The ability to read and write in Braille is key for visually impaired individuals to achieve literacy, intellectual freedom, equal opportunity, and personal security. However, literacy of Braille among legally blind schoolchildren has declined from about 50% forty years ago to about 10% today. Lack of certified teachers, a limited number of learning centers, and steep learning curves are a significant cause of the problem. Furthermore, learning Braille becomes significantly more difficult later in life.
Technology: Investigators at Georgia Tech have developed a method to significantly reduce time and difficulty of learning Braille with the potential of improving the quality of life of blind patients. Passive Haptic Learning (PHL) is the acquisition of motor skills through vibration stimuli, without devoting active attention to learning. Users wear a haptic glove with motors sewn into each finger, which is programmed to deliver a haptic stimulus while the individual focuses on another task. Braille is a chorded language, meaning that multiple keys are required to type one alphabet character. Rather than delivering stimuli simultaneously to all fingers used in typing a given character, sequential vibrations across the hand representing each letter of the Braille alphabet are used. After a passive learning period, the haptic glove is removed. Subjects exposed to PHL were are able to accurately read and type in Braille in less than four hours.
Commercial Applications: This process can be used to facilitate teaching and learning
of any chorded input skill. Similar to
Braille, stenography typing is an entry technique used for real-time
transcription. PHL has other
applications in playing musical instruments, teleoperation, flight simulation,
rehabilitation, and gaming.
· Passive learning of the entire Braille alphabet within four hours
· Acquisition of Braille reading skills through passive learning of Braille typing
· Passive stimuli do not inhibit simultaneous performance in other tasks
· Lightweight and wearable system, designed for optimal fit on different size hands
· Improve quality of life of blind patients and reduce socioeconomic cost of caring for blind individuals.