Six MIT Students Create a Device to Help People with Visual Impairments

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Written by: Emily Flynn, Ability Tools Staff

Working for Ability Tools I am constantly looking for information on new and upcoming technology. One day while being sucked into an infinite worm hole of assistive technology information on the internet I came across “Team Tactile” and this really grabbed my attention.

White box sitting on top of a typed document, top of box 6 groups of 6 retractable pins

Current prototype of Tactile

Team Tactile is a team of six MIT undergraduate seniors majoring in mechanical engineering, materials science and electrical engineering & computer science. This team of six women has created a prototype of a device that could start converting book text to Braille right there on the spot.

Meet the device, Tactile! Tactile (Patent Pending) aims to revolutionize Braille technology. Tactile is the first portable real-time text to braille converter. Tactile aims to help those who are visually impaired to increase access to the printed text around them at a low price point. This device is not only helpful when reading books; it can be used in other scenarios as well. Examples are restaurants menus, business cards, documents, flyers, receipts, and much more!

Currently, the team is figuring out a better way to raise and lower the pins. Current braille devices use piezoelectronics to operate pins which are an expensive method. The team hopes that they can come up with a less expensive method to keep the cost of the final product down. They eventually hope to sell a compact version of Tactile for no more than $200, and expect it to hit the market in the next two years.

These women are not only looking for better portable solutions for the visually impaired but also are hoping to inspire young women to peruse their interests in engineering and science. For more information check out the video below and check out their team’s website:


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