The publication system consists of two main components:
Both of these components also have speculative versions which aren't practically implementable right now, but could eventually come to life via (predicted) technical evolution.
Physical mediums offer something crucial when designing for the blind—tactility. Brushing over a page to find different forms embossed on the sheet is a tried and trusted way of deciphering images.
No ink made it into the final book; instead, everything has been embossed on the paper by etching the design into wood and then running the paper over it through a printing press, resulting in a purely tactile design.
I considered including the text in Latin format within the book to make it readable for those unfamiliar with braille, but finally decided against it since it led to a more cramped layout.
This could also make for an interesting coffee table book for those with vision, due to the novelty of it being purely embossed.
I also designed custom 3D printed binding rings, which helped the book lay flat on the table with minimum distortion.
One of primary functions of the book—aside from making pictorial content accessible to the blind—was to house the index.
As evident from the sketch, the index is what connects the various interfaces in this publication system. How is that achieved?
Every item of the index is associated with a pattern-based 4 character code. This code can be punched into any of the other interfaces to refer to the same item. This makes searching for specific items easier, as you don't need to type out the entire title of a chapter/book (a difficult task without sight, especially without hefty braille-specific keyboards).
The index is structured in a tree format with 3 stages:
The digital audio reader provides the reader with the primary textual content of a book.
The layout is designed to make the most used functions easy to find without sight. This was done by placing these functions close to the edges and corners of the screen.
Specific chapters/books can be pulled up through their associated code as established in the index.
I also created speculative versions of these interfaces, the primary difference being that these interfaces are based on where current technology might go based on trends.
As a result, the prototypes for these interfaces are more abstracted from the way they might be implemented practically and rely more on interpretation.
This is a speculative version of the digital reader which relies on hand gestures for navigation, hence removing any remaining guesswork involved in pressing buttons on a flat screen.
I used handtrack.js, which is a library which allows for browser-based real-time handtracking, making it compatible with my browser-based prototype.
As is evident in the demo video, there can be issues with the handtracking depending on lighting conditions and the orientation of the hand. These could be remedied with a IR sensor-based detection which wouldn’t have to rely on the RGB camera input.
A more polished implementation of the tracking could also allow for finger pose detection, which would result in more sophisticated control over the interface.
The tactile reader is a setup of 6 solenoids hooked up to an Arduino, each of which represent one of the 6 dots which make up a character of braille.
This reader is a portable, low-cost solution to having what is essentially a braille e-book. In the future, higher density tactile displays may be able to display not only a higher number of characters at once, but also elements like tactile illustrations.
(At the time of writing this section) It has been a while since I did this project, and there are a number of shortcomings which should have been addressed. The biggest, most important one was the scarcity of user testing. Due to time constraints and the specific target audience, there was no point at which I tested the publication system as a whole with a visually impaired person (or even with, for instance, an abled person with a blindfold). That means this project is essentially a set of hypotheses based on secondary research, which would have to be tested for the sake of validation.
Having addressed the elephant in the room, here are some other shortcomings which could be improved upon:
Of course, these are just updated hypotheses which would also have to be validated.