Interactive Devices: Device of the Week – Braille Displays

For this week’s Device of the Week, centered around the theme of “senses,” I will be discussing braille display technology.

Braille is a writing system developed for visually impaired readers. Words and characters are transcribed using a system of raised dots arranged in patterns. This makes it a writing system that can be read using the sense of touch alone.

Since 1970, braille has been repurposed as a digital display system. Purpose-built displays such as the EDGE 40 are capable of dynamically displaying braille characters.

Some devices, such as the BLITAB, even have touchscreen braille displays.

Visually impaired users use braille displays in much the same way that sighted users use LCD displays: the text on screen can be navigated with the mouse and key presses, shifting according to user input. Many displays also allow the user to move the cursor to a cell on the screen by touching that cell.


  • Intuitive – piggybacks on existing understanding of braille
  • Fast, responsive, skimmable – compare to text-to-speech
  • Easily integrated with text-to-speech for best of both worlds


  • Inflexible – only able to display plain text
  • Traditional displays only show one line at once
  • Incompatible with many websites, programs, GUIs
  • Bulky form factor – impossible to carry around like a handphone

Possible Improvements

  • Smartphone-sized version of the BLITAB with custom GUI and apps
  • Or a watch-sized version similar to Apple Watch
  • Ability to change texture or temperature for a more interesting reading experience / possibility to play games
  • Integrated LCD display for partially sighted users

Other Implementations

Since this is basically just a rewritable display, it can be applied anywhere braille or writing is already used. For instance, instead of an LCD display on your air-conditioner or washing machine, a braille display could be an option for visually impaired users.

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Chin Kee Yong

hello i play video games and also sometimes make video games

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