What would the world be without art? A world where only numbers and alphabets existed? Imagine recognizing the beauty of a majestic mountain that stands strong and dominant, by the river. Using only numbers and alphabets. Or the beauty of someone's handwriting for that matter. Imagine having to interact using mechanical, standardized text all the time. Not being able to understand what drawing is.
The blind and the visually impaired are a group of people blessed with super senses. However, they live in a world constructed by people without these.
The Braille was invented out of a system to facilitate basic message transfer, initially as a system for the army, where soldiers could read messages without having to use light or talking in order to convey messages and hide their positions and keep instructions discreet. The content of these messages was primarily formal, alpha numeric; A version 1.0 system was, thus, adapted and invented to enable reading of information for the blind. The system has evolved since, but only in form, not function. The basic idea of communication has remained limited to information in the form of numbers and alphabets.
The tprint aims to resolve this limit of imagination by enabling embossed printing of picture outlines and textures to aid and increase the understanding and interactions of the largely non-alphanumeric world to the blind. It introduces them to art. Perhaps a new category of creation. Perhaps renditions of the old.
Current Braille printers have the following problems:
1. They're really expensive.
2. They only print braille.
Now, the problem with that is, most of the blind population cannot afford such Braille printers and type-writers. And the primary assumption in such printing is, that the user CAN READ BRAILLE. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/29882719/ns/us_news-life/t/fewer-blind-americans-learning-use-braille/
Less than 10% blind people in the US read Braille. And that's just the US. A prosperous nation. How about the third world? Or the second? And then there's different kinds of Braille. And different kinds of languages.
As someone who was once a kid, I know how boring textbooks are. There is a reason they put pictures in there. But how do pictures make sense for a blind person? The assumption that spatial and visual cognition is the same thing, plagues the question here. A blind person does not have visual cognition but does have a spatial one. In essence, he may not 'see' the color of the bowl, but understands the 3D characteristics of any object in a similar way as other people, but using tactile cues and touch.
Hence, the process of communication slows down as more geometric concepts and imagery is introduced into a conversation. We, impose a limited system of communication, on the form and rob them of a lot of opportunity and imagination.
So, how do we solve this?
1. Cheap printing.
2. Re-invent braille.
Current Braille type-writers and printers use a complex mechanical assembly to create standard embossed dots in a cell, on a thick paper.
tprint uses a tweaked thermal printer (yes, the kind that prints credit card receipts) and a thermo-sensitive paper, that contains layers of substrate and matrix. The idea is that a specific mix of thermosensitive substrate in the paper on exposure to heat, initiates a physical/chemical reaction in the paper at specific spots, effusing a small amount of gas, increasing the volume. This pushes the semi-molten layer up, into a new form, creating a reverse dent, or an emboss. It is a series of such embossed dots that are used in braille communication. The dot-matrix print head prints normally. Using such a system, therefore, we can print, not just 6/8 dots in a cell, but lines, skeletons and even textures.
With the help of such a printer, therefore, we can create a new reading/communication language for the blind, of which Braille will only be a small component. Such a cheap printing solution will also enable blind people to become creators themselves;...Read more »