Grapheel’s MIDAS project focuses on developing technologies to support a new class of device, tactile displays. This involves both hardware and software research, including the creation of an app store for tactile displays.  We’re also working on providing new technologies to improve the next generation of tactile displays.

The Motivation

We think that affordable tactile displays will be invaluable in allowing blind students and scientists to learn and work just as easily as their sighted colleagues. Devices that can display graphics in a tactile format will be revolutionary and we wish to promote and assist their creation as much as possible.

The following paragraph from a paper published by a research group at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology summarises why tactile displays are important.

“People who have lost their sight rely substantially on touch and hearing for obtaining information about their environment. Accordingly, displays that plot digital data such as text and graphics for visually impaired users must address at least one of these senses. While today speech output is integrated in nearly every technical device the development of tactile displays falls short of expectations.”

Wires leading out from an experimental tactile display module

Our Short and Long Term Goals

We wish to build bridges between manufacturers of these devices to provide a more polished experience for all blind and visually impaired (BVI) users. Creating an app store for the best tactile displays would eliminate any compatibility issues and increase the adoption rate of these useful tools. Looking back to the smartphone race, it is obvious how important these app stores are to new technologies, and we’re going to create the first.

We are also currently focusing on research into new materials and methods to create the display part of such a device. Current solutions are very bulky or require other compromises that limit their real world use cases.

While Grapheel is not yet developing a tactile display, our long term goal is to create one that interfaces perfectly with our app store. Our device will be the next generation of tactile display, taking what we’ve learned and creating a better experience for our BVI users.

A picture of an incomplete tactile display module

Linking IRIS and MIDAS

When IRIS is fully launched and available, a large community of BVI people and sighted volunteers will grow around it. This will give us a fantastic foundation upon which to build our unified ecosystem.

We can use IRIS to provide context to the images shown on these devices, as we’ve found that it is much easier to understand tactile input when you already have an idea of what you’re feeling.