Ohio Patent of the Month – June 2022

Braille is a system of tactile reading and writing used most often by people with low vision or blindness. Refreshable Braille displays offer a bridge between the low vision reading language and today’s technology. These displays are electro-mechanical devices that use round-tipped pins that raise and lower to form letters in Braille which the user can then read. The user can move a cursor around the computer screen and the display will “refresh”, changing words as the mouse passes over new sections. 

The most commonly available displays use piezoelectric actuators to raise and lower the Braille dots, with each character requiring its own actuator. That means an 8-dot character would need to use 8 of these actuators. This process can be incredibly slow and requires a great deal of space. They also are often limited to a single line display, forcing a user to read incredibly slowly.

Beacon Street Innovations, LLC has designed a tool to revolutionize Braille displays. Rather than piezoelectric actuators, this display uses stationary or mobile actuators such as coils or solenoids. These actuators power the mechanical pins which can then move rotationally or vertically. The pins are spaced closely enough to effectively display graphics, including 3D graphics. In this novel design, the actuator and Braille dot are not permanently connected, allowing a greater degree of flexibility and a reduction in complexity. This flexibility is reflected in that there is no need for a single actuator for each individual dot. Instead, one actuator can flexibly activate a range of Braille dots.

Their device is further set apart from other displays by offering a multi-line capability. The design reduces the costs associated with each cell, making a multi-line display possible at a lower market cost than currently offered. The user can move the cursor around the computer as usual, and the Braille display will refresh to reflect the images or words on screen. The multi-line display also allows a user to read closer to their natural speed, rather than restricting them to a single line at a time.

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