Reading and writing in Braille can be a frustrating new skill that people who lost their eyesight have to learn. Typically, to become a natural at Braille requires many hours of learning, but researchers at Georgia Tech developed a glove that can help learn Braille without even thinking about it.
The electronic glove has vibrating motors sitting atop each knuckle and was originally used to teach people to play piano. The knuckles can be made to vibrate in different patterns that correspond to phrases written in Braille. In studies, to be presented at the 18th International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC) in Seattle in September, the researchers had volunteers wear the glove while focusing on learning Braille, while other participants played unrelated video games during the same Braille learning sequences. Remarkably, even those that didn’t consciously focus on Braille were able to repeat writing phrases taught by the glove. Moreover, not only did writing of Braille improve, but the study participants were also able to read Braille with greater ease.
From Georgia Tech:
No one in the study had previously typed on a Braille keyboard or knew the language. The study also didn’t include screens or visual feedback, so participants never saw what they typed. They had no indication of their accuracy throughout the study.
“The only learning they received was guided by the haptic interface,” said [Ph.D. student Caitlyn Seim].
Seim is currently in the middle of a second study that uses PHL to teach the full Braille alphabet during four sessions. Of the eight participants so far, 75 percent of those receiving PHL reached perfect typing performance. None of the control group had zero typing errors. PHL participants have also been able to recognize and read more than 90 percent of all the letters in the alphabet after only four hours.