Researchers at Bonn University have come up with a way of feeling text messages using a matrix of pins. Rather like the Braille readers used by blind and partially-sighted PC users, pins are raised and lowered, in patterns – but the system isn’t Braille for mobile phones yet.
Users program which patterns the phone makes to which keywords – examples given are a wave towards the user to indicate “I” and you a wave away from the user to indicate “you”.
It’s currently cumbersome, and of limited use (why not just look at your phone?), but the team feel it will have uses in art-installations or other more traditional feedback systems – such as steering wheels. There’s also no reason why the system can’t be refined so that blind users can read text messages.
If the array can be made small enough to work with mobile phones of 3g dimensions, this feedback system might be a great idea for giving access to PDAs for the blind.
Prof Eckmiller of Bonn University told the BBC: “Our major intention with this invention and development is to open up the sense of touch as a new channel for human communication, the sense of touch will in the future be added as the third communication channel to human communication technologies.”