Multi-lined and graphical refreshable braille displays: pillars of the braille future

Since the eighties of the last century, when the first refreshable braille displays came on the market, we experienced a huge change in their shapes, syzes, appearances, and functions. We will be closing on 50 years of the refreshable braille display usage quite soon and still, due to the market specifications of these devices and relatively high price of them, many blind users can not afford buying one. The position paper of European Blind Union addresses this issue and accents the importance of braille display usage and training in blind children’ education.

Where we though are now with braille displays? The technology is blossoming faster than we can track its progress, artificial intelligence is every minute wiser and faster… How the braille can keep up with this amazing speed of development? The answer might be close at hand hidden under hundreds or thousands of refreshing pins in the multi-lined braille display. We already have few of them on the market or well down on the road marching steadyly towards their users. Here is a quick review of them with a few news. Each of these devices deserves much deeper and much complex review. This article brings only general overview of available possibilities. More articles of the closer look might come.

Anyone is welcomed to add news about each of these devices below in the comments or even add other ones if we did not cover the whole field.

Canute products, developed by the Bristol Braille

The Bristol Braille company has developed and is selling two braille refreshable devices, Canute 360 and Canute Console.

Canute 360

The Canute 360, electronic Braille reader, is a device with 9 lines of 40 braille cells. Refreshing these 360 braille cells can give a reader full view of a parragraph, table or other context related content under his/her fingers. The refresh rate of this huge area of braille cells is more or less a second per line.

The price of the Canute 360 depends on the purchase conditions, such as preorder prices, sales and so on. It though may be around 3-4 thousands of euros. From the producer’s website: “Canute’s display show’s a third or more of a Braille page’s layout… Not one twenty-seventh of the layout!” More information can be found on the website of The Canute 360 (external link).

Canute Console

The Canute Console, a braille workstation, is a linux-based braille console running on a RASPBERRY Pi, with a possibility of reading and using braille for teachers, students or professionals. 360 cell display plus matching 13″ LCD visual display show precisely the same 9-lines of information (for Braille and visual readers co-working), pull out QWERTY keyboard and a range of ports. Its a revolutionary workstation. The Canute 360 can be detached from the keyboard and monitor and used as a stand-alone device as well. It offers robust work with data, their relations, programming, showing maps or playng games. Recently offering even the real football matches reviews in braille, different games and more. Canute Console Bundle in December 2023 is available for pre-order. More information can be found on The Canute Console (external link).

You can watch the foodball match on the Canute console on Youtube in the video: Canute Console: Wales vs England… in multiline refreshable Braille! by Bristol Braille Technology.

More details on prices can be found right in the online e-shop of Bristol Braille at E-shop of Canute products (external link).

Dot Pad, developed by the Dot Incorporation

Dot Pad is a smart tactile graphics display for the visually impaired. Connecting it to the computer or a smart phone brings a unique possibility of transfering the visual image into a tactile graphic representation. The area of dots vary on differend Dot Pad devices. Recently there are 4 different sizes of Dot Pad, the bigest offers 832 braille cells, the smallest 16 cells. Standard syze of the device is 320 cells. The device offers integration with few screenreaders, such as NVDA and Voice Over. Recently (december 2023), a new tactile cell (D3) cell is awaited in the Dot Pad device, and promises a refresh rate ten times faster than before. With this speed not only static images but also dynamic graphic review is awaited.

More information can be found on the website of the produrcer About Dot Pad (external link).

Dot Canvas is a software solution to easyly send to the Dot Pad different images, PDF files, braille text and more. It is a platform for transfer of visual images to the tactile graphics. Describtion of Dot Pad and Dot Canvas was closely explained during the Sight Tech Global 2023 in the presentation dot 2.0 (external link).

Graphiti®, developed by the Orbit Research

This refreshable Interactive Tactile Graphics Display offers independently refreshable pins in a 60×40 array. Used technology, the Tactuator™ technology provides the ability to set each pin to different heights. This way, different shading and colouring for touch recognition can be easyly displayed. The technology allows the user to draw with the finger, tracing a shape with a fingertip raises the pins along the path traced. It offers a rich variability for connecting to the different devices, such as computers, tablets or smartphones. HDMI port allows to connect the Graphiti to any device with video display.

More information can be found on the website of Graphiti® (external link).

The Monarch: developed by the HumanWare, American Printing House and National Federation of the Blind

The Monarch is a multipurpose, multiline, tactile braille device that can download digital textbooks and access tactile graphics. Used cells are the Dot cells from Dot Incorporation, producer of the Dot Pad display. It consists of 10 lines by 32 cells touching area. This refreshable braille display can render multiple lines of braille and tactile graphics using equidistant pins.

The device is still under development although first beta devices were constructed and beta-tested in huge field testing through the year 2023. More information can be found on the website about The Monarch (external link).

This device was presented on the Sigh Ttech Global 2023, available in video The Timing for APH’s Monarch tactile display could not be better (external link).

The Cadence Tablet, developed by Tactile Engineering

The Cadence tablet is a pocket-sized device (about the size of a large mobile phone) with a 384-dot refreshable screen. That’s 48 cells of 8-dot braille, in four lines of 12 cells each. It is possible to combine two or four Cadence tablets together and create a larger tactile screen. It is possible to display braile or graphics on the tablet, the device offers even a dynamic tactile graphics, which can be refreshing right under fingers. This way, not only static images, but also animations can be reviewed.

More information can be found on the website of The Cadence Tablet (external link)

Tactile Braille Tablet insideONE by insidevision® Inc.

Tactile tablet with a touch-sensitive interface, similar to the smartphones we use every day. The device is roughly the size of an A4 sheet of paper and boasts a 32-cell braille display made from CNC aluminum, ensuring durability. With a 10-inch screen, the tablet incorporates a Perkins-style keyboard that is indented into the glass, allowing users to feel where to place their fingers for typing. The tablet is also equipped with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a range of gestures that go beyond the screen. The price is depends on many factors, but aproximate 7 thousand €.

More information and detailed description can be found on the website of the Tactile Braille Tablet.

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