Technology For the Blind and Deaf is Getting Pretty Cool
That picture above is a Blitap – an iPad for the blind. It uses a liquid-based technology to create raised Braille images to be read by the visually impaired. Pretty cool stuff.
It’s just one of many emerging technologies that can be used by people with sensory disabilities. For the deaf, researchers at the National Science Foundation Science of Learning Center, Visual Language and Visual Learning at Gallaudet University, are using 3D motion sensors on a person’s body to help translate American Sign Language motions into nursery rhymes.
Most kids learn their ABC’s through the classic song, but English nursery rhymes don’t translate well to ASL. The sign language grammar structure is much different from that of English…
To translate rhymes to a non-sound based language, she adds, the team keeps repetitive rhythms available through the use of common handshapes.
Motion capture tracks these “temporal rhythms” of hand gestures and reflects the data on a dual monitor like a polygraph, which acts as a blueprint for the 3-D signing avatar. (In ASL, signage and facial expressions work to translate what might be compared to vocal intonations in English.)
Technology has long been cited as a key resource for students with disabilities who are getting special education services. Some technology can be really simple – placing a three-paneled barrier along the edge of a desk can help kids with ADD stay focused.
Other technology is a little more complicated, like the Blitap or this 3D motion capture. Obviously there’s a cost here. Special education is already costly and difficult to manage, especially for poor school districts.
But these kinds of technology are worthy of exploring in an educational setting.