Dr. Sile O’Modhrain, a blind associate professor at the University of Michigan, is curently developing a kindle style tablet that uses braille lettering and is refreshable. She was born in Iredland, and attended Trinity College in Dublin where she earned a BA in music. She then went on to earn an MS in music technology from the University of York in England, and a Ph.D. in computer-based music theory from Stanford University.
She has an eye condition similar to retinitis pigmentosa, which has left her blind. In order to perform her duties as a professor, she uses screen a braille reader to read email and uses the internet. But she has encountered numerous problems with them. Current braille readers can only read one line at a time, so it's impossible to figure out any charts, graphs, or anything that is spatially distributed. The one line braille readers available are very expensive, costing at a minimum $3,000. With the current technology a kindle size braille reader would cost around $55,000.
With her own struggles and the struggles of other blind people in mind, Dr. O'Modhrain and her research assistants set out to develop a braille reader tablet that was refreshable and affordable. What they've created is and entirely pneumatic system that uses air or liquid to push up pins on the tablet surface to form braille letters. Because of this their tablet doesn't need to worry about wiring tons of circuits, reducing the cost of production. Dr. O'Modhrain's lab has the technology working, "the biggest difficulty faced by the team
is controlling the thousands of pneumatic pumps needed to create an
entire page of text, while keeping the entire device small enough to be