Monarch could be Braille’s next big thing

Braille is the primary language for reading books and articles for many people around the world, and digital Braille readers are an important part of that. The latest and fanciest is monarchis a multi-purpose device using tactile display technology from startup Dot.

The Monarch is a collaboration between HumanWare and the American Printing House for the Blind. APH is an advocacy, education and development organization focused on the needs of the visually impaired, and while this is not the first Braille device for the blind, it is arguably the most capable.

It was called the Dynamic Tactile Device until it received a regal moniker at the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference in Anaheim this week. I found out about this device when he interviewed Greg Stilson of APH at his Sight Tech Global and have been waiting for this device for months.

The device began development as a way to adapt a new braille pin (i.e. the raised dots that make up the characters) mechanism. created by det is the startup we covered last year. Refreshable braille displays have been around for years, but they suffer from high cost, low durability, and slow refresh rates. Dot’s new mechanism allowed the pins to be closely spaced, individually replaceable, easy and quick to lift, and at a reasonable cost.

APH has partnered with HumanWare to adapt this new technology into a large-scale Braille reader and writer (codenamed Dynamic Tactile Device, now Monarch).

One of the biggest problems in the Braille reading community these days is the length and complexity of the publishing process. A new book, especially a long textbook, can take weeks or months after being published for sighted readers before it is available in Braille. Of course, once printed, it will be many times its original size, since Braille is less information dense than regular type.

A woman holds a Monarch Braille reader next to the stack of binders that make up the “Algebra 1” textbook.

“To enable the digital distribution of textbook files, we have partnered with over 30 international organizations and the DAISY consortium to create a new electronic Braille standard called eBRF,” an APH official explained in an email. Did. “This gives Monarch users additional features such as the ability to jump from page to page (using page numbers that match the page numbers in the printed book), the ability to insert tactile graphics directly into book files, Text and graphics can be displayed seamlessly on the page.”

The graphics capabilities are a huge leap forward. Many previous Braille readers only had one or two lines, so Monarch features his 10 lines of 32 cells each, allowing the device to read like a printed (or embossed) Braille page. I can. Also, since the grid of pins is continuous, it can also display simple graphics, as Dot’s reference device showed.

Of course, fidelity is limited, but being able to visually display graphs and animal shapes, especially in early learning, when needed, is very important.

Now, you might look at Monarch and think, “Wow, that’s huge!” And while it’s pretty big, tools for people with visual impairments need to be used and navigated without the benefit of vision, and in this case also by people of different ages, abilities, and needs. The size makes a lot more sense when you think of it more like a rugged laptop than an e-reader.

There are several other devices with continuous pin grids (one reader graffiti), but it’s as much about formats and software as it is about hardware, so I hope everyone can be a part of this giant step forward in accessibility.

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