Is there a tactile tabletop flat square ridge-forming display that would, upon receiving input from a computer, display the shape of a character or ideogram from an alphabet thus allowing a blind person to quickly understand the shape of such a character or ideogram? (Think about the 8,000 or so Chinese ideograms whose shape one could want to quickly learn.)


a) If you feel like spending then something like MIT's inFORM would be suitable for you (basically what you've asked for).

b) Look at braille "monitors", but that's far from what you've asked.

c) You could build one yourself if you have time but no money.

About choice c:

You can use standard (not LED) light bulbs (there are really small ones available too, like 3mm diameter ones), set them up in a 10x10 array. Light up the ones that need to form the display using a display controller, meaning a blind person can sense the heat generated by the bulbs. To control the bulbs you can use a microcontroller like Arduino Mega and send the characters to it with a PC program via USB. It would in overall cost you about ~50$ (plus 20$ for a uber cheap soldering iron) but hours of time, soldering together the array, programming the arduino and creating the desktop program will take respectively about 10h, 20h and 30h (about 60 work hours in total) if you have never done something like that ever and need to learn it all.

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    I don't understand all the downvotes. Anyways, perhaps a special program would have to be written for the surface display to change inky/inkless places on pages with inputed alphabet characters on them to the surface pins (and the pins could be narrower and closer). Feb 18 '16 at 18:00
  • @JackMaddington What surface display are you thinking about?
    – Avamander
    Feb 18 '16 at 18:10
  • MIT's inFORM, but perhaps less coarse. Feb 18 '16 at 18:12
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    @JackMaddington This kind of tech is really in its baby shoes and rapidly advancing, only a few solutions are available (there was another one with air blasting and another one with short laser pulses). Getting higher resolution and density is really complex. So if you want something like inFORM I think you have to contact MIT or someone else to build similar one for you, unfortunately. Or you could experiment and try out option C, there's plenty of information about matrix displays out there and I might have exaggerated the time of building a bit.
    – Avamander
    Feb 18 '16 at 18:27
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    @JackMaddington A low wattage bulb (0.0x-0.0x W) would not even get remotely hot even if fully powered (max allowed specs) for extended periods of time. Mildly warm if anything. But it's up to you to decide and experiment. (I'm keeping these bulbs in mind: static.grainger.com/rp/s/is/image/Grainger/2FLZ3_AS01?$mdmain or these i.ebayimg.com/images/g/l4cAAOxyaTxRNIcd/s-l300.jpg)
    – Avamander
    Feb 22 '16 at 20:42

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