With tactile, we wanted to solve two major issues that face the visually impaired community. One is the lack of mobile access to computing and the other is lack of ability to read signage other than the small proportion of signs with braille. Current solutions for reading signs interfere with the individual’s sense of hearing, which is essential when sight is not available.
What it does
Tactile reads signs and alerts users in live time as to the content. It displays the text on the sign letter by letter, similar to speed readers available for those with standard vision. It does so using a matrix of solenoids matching the standard 3x2 braille lettering. While we chose this implementation to demonstrate this possible use, this technology can be extrapolated to allow visually impaired individuals access to mobile computing such as reading emails, texts, maps instructions, chatbot/AI assistant responses and many of the other functions for which most of us use our smartphones.
How we built it
Yi wrote the code to convert ASCII to a a list of 1’s and 0’s representing braille symbols. Mateo wrote the code for image recognition using Tesseract. Vedant wired a circuit of transistors to control the solenoids, and Yi wrote the code to connect to said circuit. Daniil designed the matrix of solenoids and solenoid mount system and together with Mateo adjusted the circuit to support the system.
Challenges we ran into
Biggest challenges were getting the solenoids to function as expected as they turned out to be just pull solenoids instead of push pull. Daniil solved this by cutting up a business card and using it to work against the pressure of the solenoid (sort of as a spring). Also distributing the voltage properly through a circuit given our limited access (due to time constraints) to appropriate transistors. Vedant solved this by figuring out a configuration that worked. Mateo and Daniil later changed this to accommodate the backcurrent.
Solving solenoid problem. Improvising solutions given limited components. Getting all of the software working fairly quickly, as opposed to the hardware. What we learned Always check the type of solenoid you are ordering. Always plan your circuits in advance (if this is allowed) so that you have the appropriate components.
What's next for tactile
Next step will likely be a more functional/neat prototype. After that, a phone app for processing and a manageable camera. After that possibly publishing it in the form of DIY kits/instructions. Eventually possibly a fully integrated mobile computing braille device.